Technology has been advancing. I knew that, you knew that, we all knew that. And with this advancement, so has one’s ability to work from home become increasingly accessible for employees across a variety of industries as everything slowly moves online and more collaboration tools are introduced. However, despite all this, employees still continued their daily journey of commuting to their physical office, while squeezing like sardines in trains or buses. We had all the right tools in place, but we never got the opportunity to test them out just yet. Until now.
The coronavirus pandemic has therefore tested this ability by causing all but essential businesses to close their physical offices and rely on remote workers to continue productivity. I mean, it was just yesteryear when employees were still taking the 1/2/3+ hour journey to the office. But now? Employees have gained an additional 1/2/3+ hour of sleep! How great is that!
But like many things in life, all good things come with its negatives. Though work life balance might have increased, employees now have to juggle work with taking care of their children/elderly parents, homeschooling, cooking meals, household chores, etc. Their 9am-6pm work hours might have instead become a 9am-12 midnight day, with longer extended hours and an increasing blurred line between work and family time.
So how can one ensure that their employees are working from home efficiently and productively?
Encourage Dedicated Work Space
Many regular office workers have never needed a dedicated workspace in their homes before, but if they are now regularly working from home, managers and supervisors should encourage the creation of home offices that are separate from communal spaces.
Dedicated workspaces can help free employees from the normal distractions from home life. With many parents needing to be at home with their children due to school closures or only having school on alternate days now, an office away from family can allow employees to maintain focus and stay on task.
Even if this office is a temporary makeshift space — such as a guest room, basement, or attic — this can help employees mentally separate work from home, resulting in better employee productivity.
Equipping your team with Tech and Productivity Tools
Another important way to help teams succeed while working remotely is to provide the necessary tools employees need to stay connected and work efficiently.
Equipping teams with these technology and productivity tools thus allows managers and employees to all stay on the same page while working remotely.
Having collaboration platforms such as having Enterprise File Synchronisation and Sharing solutions, and chat/messaging/video conferencing apps such as Microsoft Teams
Ensuring that all of the office laptops and monitors are working in top condition when employees plan on bringing them home.
Keeping all software updated and making sure no equipment will crash unexpectedly.
Ensuring that all the employees have a good speed internet connection at home
Establish Working Hours, Give Flexibility and Understand Employees’ Situation
This is an important one. As mentioned earlier, it is very easy for employees to work longer hours late into the night and even on weekends, which thus blurs the lines between work and family. Therefore, if your employees normal working hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, ask your employees if they’d like to follow this schedule, or if they would prefer a more flexible arrangement.
It is also important to reach out to your team to understand their home situation and background a bit better. This is because, some employees might have to home-school their children or take care of elderly parents during the day. For instance, if she is a working single mother, try to adjust schedules as per her children’s priority hours and give her flexibility to work in her chosen hours.
And on a completely different reason, some of your team members might just thrive better and work more productively late at night or very early in the morning, when they are in the correct headspace to do so!
So giving employees the flexibility is thus important in ensuring employee productivity.
In addition, this also tells them that you trust them with completing their targets on time in their desired work hours outside of standard 9-6 office routine.
Trust your Employees
Trusting your team while they are working under your nose is an easy thing to do. But trusting your team while they are working remotely is definitely a harder pill to swallow, but an even more necessary one to take.
Trust is built by one’s behavior, one’s communication skills and one’s management skills. It does not mean calling your team incessantly throughout the day to check in on them or constantly messaging them to check their progress. It should not feel like you are breathing down their necks or watching them like a hawk!
So like mentioned earlier, understand your employees’ home situation and background, and give them the flexibility as long as they are able to finish what they are tasked to do! Your leadership skills and humane side must therefore come out equally to ensure trust between managers/supervisors and the team.
And when we start trusting our team, our productivity concerns at the workplace automatically fades away.
Establish Daily Check-Ins
With managers no longer getting daily face time with employees and employees not being able to chat around their cubicles or in the pantry, creating a daily check-in routine is an important way to set priorities and foster connections.
A morning check-in via video chat, phone call or instant message, using collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, can create a sense of belonging and normalcy. These check-ins can be one-on-one or held among small groups.
This is also a great way to stay productive and can assist with:
An overview of what was achieved the day before, and what they want to achieve for the day ahead
The alignment of goals and tasks as a team
Any issues or concerns by the team
Improved communication across teams
Accountability and overall productivity
But remember, keep the check-in short and sweet! And try not to keep your employees in meetings the whole day, as long meeting hours can make employees unproductive because they can never get to their actual tasks!
Maintain Regular Contact
Communication. Communication. Communication. That is the most important thing in any company, and for any company to be successful in the long run.
And what’s more is that the main thing employees like to feedback on is about communication, or rather, the lack of communication!
And of course, with most employees still working remotely now, it is a thousand percent more necessary for regular communication to minimize any misunderstandings, confusion or uncertainty amongst employees.
However, there are also many forms of communication.
Within the team, it is important for colleagues to regular communicate and update one another either by quick daily stand-ups with the team, or short weekly team catchups. This is especially crucial if multiple members in the team are working on the same project o