It’s no secret that most of us are used to the traditional work spaces – having a physical location with desks and chairs sitting among our coworkers, sipping on the machine made coffee. But now, working from your makeshift work space in what probably is your dining table, it’s probably not that easy to turn on the work mode.
Are you worried that your productivity is going down now that you’re working remotely? It can be tricky. Without the usual environmental cues that helped us turn on our work mode or party mode, it all seems to come together and implode.
Does working remotely affect productivity?
The way we work has drastically changed overnight. It is safe to assume that it affects some aspects of work.
Productivity is of particular importance and concern.
This is not just a pesky concern of a single individual, either. A lot of people are worried about it. If working remotely is going to be our new normal, how do you trust ourselves and our teams to be productive?
How can companies hope and expect to get any work done?
Managers worry about the myriad distractions present for the remote worker and whether they will get their jobs done on time. Sure, watching Netflix or snoozing all day sounds tempting. Will it though it’s your daily routine though? Don’t think so. It is still a speculation though.
The cause for concern
In the office coworkers tend often pose the greatest threat to keeping you from getting some real, heads-down work done. That said, there is some sort of peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done. It is easier to just go into the zone.
Cooking the next meal, engaging your kids, interacting with your family or friends, it may not look like it, but there’s a lot to be done at home too. The lines have blurred. We are juggling everything at once now. It’s not an ideal situation and it’s not easy to find the work life balance.
Not to mention, without the unintentional interventions at the workplace, slacking off can soon turn into spiraling into a rut. The disconnection and isolation only fuel it. Flexible work schedules give remoters insane levels of freedom, but it also comes with its own hazards. It can get extremely distracting, staying motivated and connected with work is crucial to get any work done, becoming a serial procrastinator is a real possibility.
The volatile markets mean staying in business tougher than ever. Businesses are genuinely concerned about what crisis brings, both internally and externally. Making your business crisis proof means revisiting the foundations of the company – problem statement, people and productivity.
What is productivity?
Productivity describes the efficiency of production.
Going by the definition, productivity is the rate at which a company or country makes goods, usually judged in connection with the number of people and the amount of materials necessary to produce the goods.
That definition of productivity goes out of the window when we talk about the work of the knowledge age. The work of today is no longer about generating volumes of what is already designed. It is, in fact, the polar opposite of that. We want newer, easier, elegant solutions to existing problems. Our work essentially is finding better ways to do what we know or tackling new problems altogether.
Productivity cannot be measured like it is the Industrial Age.
This raises several questions.
Is productivity a measure of someone’s efficiency or efforts? What if you’re working on a large chunk of task that takes days while your coworker for instance works on five tasks in half that time. Can we say that one is more efficient than the other? Can we even measure productivity?
Most often, tasks are not independently impactful to be measured in a meaningful manner. Some days you see a lot of results, some days you don’t, because no single result is a single day’s output. That doesn’t mean that you’re not working.
We try not to measure absolute productivity on a daily basis. Not only is it inaccurate, it is demotivating and unnecessary too. We don’t cheer for a job done quickly, we cheer for a job well done. The nature of knowledge work doesn’t allow for it.
So how do we measure productivity?
Or even before that, why should you bother about it?
Productivity is not a measure of success
This might seem counter intuitive at the first glance. But let’s walk through it.
We’ve already established hours are a bad metric to measure work. Let’s take a task based approach now. Is your schedule made up of 4 tasks a day for five days a week? Can you allot x hours to these tasks and call it a good day? Does ticking the tasks off the calendar mean you’re doing a good job? Does rushing through a task in half the time taken you’d normally do count as productive?
No, it doesn’t.
Why you need to start tracking productivity today
Trust is where it starts and ends
An important ingredient of a successful remote work environment is trust.
Trust is a two way street. Managers must trust the remote worker enough to assume that he/she is getting work done without the need to constantly check-in. Conversely, the remote employee must trust the manager to be available to help solve issues and provide guidance.
As much as we advocate trust, it comes down to “trust, but verify”. Or in this case, the ability to verify. And data to fall back on.
Flexible work schedules might give employees more freedom. But how do you make sure that freedom is being utilized or not misused? Are your employees in the loop? Do they have ability and resources to get the job done? Productivity is a powerful indicator.
Transparency is the key
A high level of transparency across projects, tasks, and individual goals is essential within an organisation. The team needs to know how their tasks and responsibilities fit together in the bigger picture to give their best.
You can achieve this by making use of the project management systems that can be accessed from any location. It also allows team members to see what their co-workers are accomplishing. You can watch them uploading their files in convenient locations which can be accessed from any device that’s connected to the internet.
Burnout is a bigger concern
Taking a page out of Skillcrush’s book
“It is tough to remember to have a life outside of work. We hear the question, “How do you make sure your employees are working eight hours each day?” The opposite is true. We really have to emphasize the importance of setting boundaries with the team so they don’t burn out.”
Working from home can be stressful too. Work life balance is a myth if you cannot manage remote work. Encourage your team to keep regular office hours and be observant of the signs of burnout – a drop in output quality, erratic or moody behavior, and emails being sent at odd hours.
Creating clear temporal boundaries often depends on the ability to coordinate ones’ time with others. This calls for leaders to aid employees in structuring, coordinating, and managing the pace of work.
Success calls for systems
Empowering employees remotely is a sound practice that can benefit you as well as your employee. Working from home is no longer a luxury for modern business, it is bound to become our way of life.
Setting the processes right, making use of the right tools can enable your remote team to be more efficient and productive. Tools allow you to schedule appointments and run errands without missing a day. The processes power you to keep you going in the right direction.
Productivity tracking weaves accountability
It can be a little difficult to enable your remote employees to be productive and motivate them to work hard when they are working from the comfort of their own home. Don’t add to the problem by piling unexpected and unplanned interruptions. Even if it’s a random ad-hoc meeting, just let them know it.
Independent work schedules can make it difficult to track every remote employee’s productive work hours, a problem that is amplified if they’re working in a different time-zone. To avoid this, establishing a particular framework for tracking productivity.
There are means to track and monitor how much time a remote worker spends on a specific task, site or app. This helps you get a better idea of what they’re up to during work hours. How do you know when you’re slacking off? What if you’re not capable of doing it all by yourself? What if there’s some blockers or dependencies that you’ve overlooked? What if you’re in a rut and you don’t realise it? What if they’ve been several distractions but you haven’t noticed that it was affecting your work?
Tracking productivity answers a multitude of questions and forms a feedback loop to finding our footing in the new way of work.
Productivity not a success metric for us. It is a means to a better workplace. You know if you’re slacking, you know how your timeline and ETAs. Our people are passionate about what they do, when that slips, everything else falls apart. But if it steadily goes down, we know it’s time to step in.