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16 Jul 2020

Remote Working Lowering Productivity? Try These Tips


Remote working has been a growing trend for some time now, and if you weren’t already on board, the COVID-19 pandemic may have forced your hand. Major changes to your business processes always come with pros and cons, but one of the biggest disadvantages with remote working could be a loss of productivity.

To repair a slump in productivity while working remote, start by reviewing common root causes:

1. Perception

Consider the possibility that the drop is only a perception, caused by increased scrutiny on remote workers. Some managers assume that every minute an employee is in the building, they’re doing productive work. The truth is, a typical in-office workday includes chit-chat, bathroom breaks, coffee refills, logging into computers, or clearing paper jams from the copier. Some studies suggest an average employee gets 5 ½ hours of productive work accomplished in an 8-hour day. It can be difficult to accurately gauge your productivity in a virtual office if you lacked the proper measurement tools for comparison beforehand.

Solution: Put the proper systems and reporting tools in place to measure employee productivity with accuracy, enabling you to compare performance in-office vs. remote. With the right metrics, you can compare performance between employees and between teams to identify trouble areas and resolve inconsistencies.

2. Distractions

In-office workspaces come with their own distractions. For some, working from home can exacerbate that problem – spouses, lawnmowers, kids, and even pets can become impediments to getting work done.

Solution: Give advice to your team on avoiding distractions; let them know that they’re not the only ones struggling. Open a dialogue by speaking to your own challenges first, so everyone feels comfortable joining the discussion. You’ll find a plethora of articles on this topic but get started with this infographic.

3. Technology

Many companies that attempt remote working simply don’t have the proper tools to make it work. If your phone system doesn’t have the right prompts or ability to transfer calls, if you spend all day reading an endless stream of inter-office emails, or you have to rely solely on phone calls and emails to communicate, you’re destined to struggle with staying productive in a virtual office.

Solution: Upgrade your phone systems, implement cloud-based CRM software, and consider collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. Read more about collaboration tools by clicking here.

4. Work-life harmony

Going to the office triggers an ‘at work’ mentality in the subconscious. When you walk through the door, your brain switches from ‘at-home’ to ‘at work’ without even realizing it. Conversely, some have the opposite problem, and without usual office distractions, they forget to take breaks, stretch out, or eat a lunch, which can trick you into working harder, but not smarter. Working from home can hurt your productivity because you just don’t feel like you’re at work, either because you’re too focused… or not focused enough.

Solution: Set a routine and be organized. You can schedule blocks of time for specific work tasks, stick to a routine to begin your workday, and develop habits that will trigger your ‘work mode.’ For example, go for a walk before starting your day, drive or walk to get a mocha latte grande from your local coffee shop, and make sure you have a designated workspace that is clutter free. Share your favorite tips and encourage others to do the same. You might even try a virtual ‘roll call’ in the morning to help yourself and others to enter ‘work mode’ at a designated time. Check out this infographic to maximize your time working out of the office.

5. Task management

Without the structure of a physical office environment, managing your tasks can be a challenge.

Solution: Leverage technology like Microsoft Teams and Microsoft To Do, or block out hours of your calendar for specific projects or tasks. Be sure to share these tips with your other team members.

6. Separation anxiety

For many, working from home can be difficult because we miss our office colleagues, the ‘water cooler’ chat about that new Netflix series, or the personal check-ins about our families, pets, and kids. For many, the loss of camaraderie among colleagues can make them feel like Tom Hanks on an island with nothing but a volleyball named Wilson.

Solution: Maintain that office feel by (again) looking at collaboration tools. Be sure to keep in touch on a personal level and use chat channels to continue the office water cooler talk. You may find a weekly virtual ’happy hour’ or shared lunch can boost your office morale and productivity.

7. Self-discipline/accountability

Let’s be honest, some folks will struggle with remote working because they lack the self-discipline to stay focused when ‘the boss’ isn’t watching. This is different from laziness (a lack of desire to work), but some workers need accountability and oversight to keep them on task.

Solution: Even the most disciplined professionals need a virtual kick-in-the-pants occasionally, so assigning someone else to keep you on track (even if you’re the boss) is healthy. Set deadlines and ask others to check-in for updates. You might use an agenda style meeting with follow-ups or monitor production numbers to keep everyone on pace. If you’re managing a team that performs the same functions, sending weekly or monthly reports that show employee stats can create a competitive environment in a positive way because it feels good to be on top, and motivates those at the bottom. Be sure to recognize top performers and those who show improvement. If someone is consistently at the bottom, ask if they need help or advice.

8. Flexibility

One of the big advantages of remote working is flexibility. But, this can also become a challenge that hinders your productivity. It can be hard to get started in the morning, knowing you have all the time in the world… and before you know it, it’s 5:00.

Solution: If you’re struggling to maintain productivity and too much flexibility is the issue, setting a firm schedule might help. You could also take this challenge and turn it into a benefit by reminding yourself that starting your day at 6:30 a.m. makes for a 2:30 happy hour!

Interested in learning how to improve your remote working experience? Call us or click here for a free, no-pressure consultation and learn how SYNACT can help you implement the right tools.