After two years of Covid, it’s clear that an extended or hybrid remote workforce is here to stay. Now that so many workers have grown used to the benefits and convenience of working from home, it’ll be very difficult to lure them back into a world of expensive city centers and freeway commutes. Faced with a growing labor shortage, companies will have no choice but to accept it.
Remote working has been opposed by many companies because it could lead to decreased productivity and innovation. They might have been right. According to U.S. labor regulations, StatisticsThe U.S. labor market productivity decreased 5.2% on a seasonally adjusted base in the third quarter of 2021. That’s the steepest quarterly decline since 1960.
I am a collaborator by default. I find that I produce more work or higher quality work when I can bounce ideas off of colleagues and teammates. Not that you can’t do that virtually, but it doesn’t allow for those water-cooler moments of collaboration and creativity. It is difficult to duplicate this in a remote environment.
However, with some degree of remote working now a reality for most, it’s a good time to share ideas and practices that can help maintain productivity. We can probably stem the tide by making some adjustments, encouraging others, and practicing a lot.
Working remotely can be a huge benefit for some. They can accomplish more without constant interruptions at the office. It can also make others feel disconnected. This can be addressed by focusing your efforts to foster a sense of community. People work harder to support teams they feel they’re an essential part of.
Some organizations offer weekly ice cream socials that build community even when everyone is at work. This type of event is vital today, but it is important to be creative in finding both online and in-person versions. Some companies send out gingerbread house kits and pizza-building materials to employees and host an online party. Some of our teams participated in online escape rooms. Others meet weekly for Among Us (a multi-player social deduction game). These can be a great way to build a team remotely.
INCORPORATE TOOLS, DRIVEN COMMUNICATION
Most companies have implemented collaborative solutions to improve productivity. It’s important that we continue to adopt these tools, especially in cross-departmental meetings that help keep everyone on the same page. Team ambassadors who regularly attend other teams’ virtual meetings help ensure interdependencies are understood and projects are executed in time to meet deadlines.
While it would be nice if all teams were working on the same collaboration platform, it’s probably not realistic. Teams want to use the tools that best suit them. This is something we see both within our own company as well as with the tools we sell. Zinc is a field service team collaboration tool that’s fit-for-purpose. It’s extremely effective, but we wouldn’t suggest customers leverage it across their entire organization. Multiple tools can be used, but they must all support the same source of truth.
CONSIDER GAMIFICATION STYLIFICATION TECHNIQUES
Gamification at work is a popular choice for many people. One study showed that Gamification at Work is a popular choice. 72%According to the survey, gamification encourages people to work harder. And you don’t need to implement an entire platform to reap the benefits—just incorporating a few basic gamification elements can help drive participation and engagement.
For example, if you’re chasing down employees to contribute to the company blog, gamify it. Tell your eligible authors that the person whose articles receive the most hits in the quarter will win a $100 Amazon gift card, and you’re off to the races.
It’s a great time for productivity to be reassessed. Before you push employees for more, take time to consider whether the projects they’re working on are actually moving the needle. Changes in business conditions mean that what worked six months ago may not be driving results today. If some activities aren’t demonstrably benefitting the business, drop them for better alternatives.
Once your MBOs are tied with business outcomes, identify the most valuable activities to increase productivity. To measure productivity, you need to first measure it.
URGE EMPLOYEES TO SET THEMSELVES UP FOR SUCCESS
Many people have never had to work remotely and may need support in overcoming these challenges. You can find many articles online that will help you to stay productive while working remotely. These include setting up a designated workspace and establishing work hours. They also suggest following a daily routine. Remember that what works for one person may not work for another. It’s up to the employee to decide which tips help them stay focused and productive.
Ask EMPLOYEES IF YOU CAN HELP
Pretending that the shift to work from home doesn’t come with challenges will get you nowhere. Some days are easier than others when it is time to accomplish things. Discussing this openly and honestly helps people see they’re not alone.
Canvas your employees regularly and ask how they’re doing, what challenges they’re facing and, most importantly, what the organization can do to help them be more productive in a permanent remote work environment. They may surprise you with ideas you’ve never considered.
While many of us feel we’re in limbo between working from the office and working from home, it’s a new reality we must learn to embrace. Prior to the pandemic and stay-at-home restrictions, a large percentage of my marketing team considered themselves “in-office” workers. This percentage has changed. Many companies will never have the same percentage of onsite employees as they used to have. The sooner we recognize that we still need to empower all employees to be highly productive in a remote environment, even as restrictions lift, the better off we’ll be.
Liz Carter is the SVP Marketing at ServiceMax with experience in high tech, cloud, SaaS, and communications.