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Productivity and Employee Management for Remote Workers

Posted on August 1st, 2020

Businesses of all sizes are currently undergoing a work-from-home revolution. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated a shift that was already underway, in which working remotely is becoming a new standard (or at least a viable option) for many employees. When done correctly, it’s possible to be just as productive, engaged, and connected as before.

Global Workplace Analytics reveals that even before the pandemic changed our perception of working from home, “surveys repeatedly showed 80% of employees wanted to work from home at least some of the time.” One-third of those even indicated that they would take a pay cut in exchange for the ability to work remotely. Now that working from home is less of a perk and more of a necessity, how can small business owners navigate this shift and manage employees effectively from afar?

Benefits of Working Remotely

First, the good news: B2C notes that “Gallup research finds that ‘optimal engagement … occurs when employees spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time working off-site — or three to four days in a five-day workweek,’” so our fears about plummeting productivity can be put to rest. In fact, without some of the distractions of office life, employees spend more of their time on the work that truly matters when they’re working from home.

Not only are they more productive, but they’re also happier working remotely. “Employee turnover in companies that allow remote work is 25 percent lower than in companies that don’t offer that option” and employees who have the ability to work from home are 24 percent more likely to be happy with their work situation.

There are additional benefits for employers who enable remote work as well. Higher productivity and morale combine with lower operating expenses in terms of space rental and utility costs to make working from home a win for everyone involved.

Tips for Managing Remote Workers

There are challenges to maintaining employee engagement and communication when workers are distant from each other, including feelings of isolation and a potential lack of oversight. There are many technology solutions that are making it easier than ever before to connect, monitor, and manage remote workers. But, as the Society for Human Resource Management (an HR professional membership organization and a leader in issues impacting today’s workplaces) urges, “It’s not just a matter of providing remote workers with a new video communication platform and assuming it will be business as usual.”

Clarify Expectations

A few themes stand out among the best practices recommended by remote management experts. First, clarity of expectations is key. Managers who adopt a “hands-off” style when in proximity to employees will quickly find that approach problematic when adapting to more remote work. Outlining your priorities, deliverables, and timelines is vital to keeping everyone on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Communicate with Consistency

While in-office work lends itself to unscheduled drop-ins and quick chats in the hallway (two reasons at-home workers might be more productive!), coordinating with remote teams requires consistent and thoughtful communication. Many managers have found that starting the day with a short “virtual huddle” is a smart way to check-in about daily goals and progress. While communication is important, a regular schedule that employees can depend on allows them to spend their time most productively without losing touch.

Collaborate Effectively

Working at a distance doesn’t mean that collaboration loses its importance. In fact, it’s more vital than ever to provide opportunities for team communication and accountability. SHRM suggests that “Providing a shared document that tracks work activities is one way managers can stay apprised of what their teams are doing,” and also contribute to transparency and cooperation among team members. Task tracking platforms such as Asana, which also has individual and group messaging capabilities, are also highly effective ways to enable collaboration.

Remember to Listen

Perhaps most importantly, virtual communication can’t become a one-way street. Listening is paramount, especially when managing workers who are new to remote work. Whether this means being open to sharing concerns about this new way of working or making yourself available to check in about life outside of the office, creating those personal connections with remote workers is more pressing than ever.

Celebrate Successes

For some workers and managers, the shift to remote work is joyful and productive. For others, it will present certain challenges. That’s why celebrating the positive aspects of remote collaboration can’t be underestimated. As we move forward into a world where remote work becomes more and more common (whether by choice or necessity), we can’t lose sight of the humanity and resilience of our colleagues.

At e2E, LLC, we know small businesses inside and out. Our experienced, compassionate consultants in small business leadership, finance, marketing, human resources, and more are available to help you navigate every aspect of this transitional time. Contact us today to learn how we can guide you on your path to success!

Check out this article and other small business content on e2E’s Blog.

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