COVID-19: How businesses can keep their remote workforce productive

The ongoing lockdown in the UK has undoubtedly increased organisations’ concerns about how long their employees will be working remotely, and how this will impact productivity. Being distant from team members, the mental toll of constant COVID-19 news coverage and spending little time outside are all impacting the workforce in unique and subjective ways.

remote working productivity

Employee performance is likely to vary. Some people are experiencing difficulty adjusting to the new way of working. Others are thriving. And most will be somewhere in the middle.

Businesses anxious to maintain pre-lockdown performance levels will be exploring ways to support their now remote workforce. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a number of things employers can do to track, maintain, and strengthen productivity.

Here are five initiatives organisations can consider to improve performance.

Stay Connected

Communicating effectively and regularly makes priorities and tasks clear, keeping everyone in the loop and ensuring people understand what is expected of them. Today’s technology isn’t limited to email or telephone, although they are still invaluable, and organisations should make different mediums of communication available to their staff. Face-to-face video calling applications are proving very popular with remote working teams, as they are a great way to keep teams engaged and updated about projects and co-workers.

Managers should also be initiating one-to-one sessions with their team members to keep on top of performance and provide feedback. Continual appraisals managed effectively can be highly beneficial, and an excellent way of engaging employees.

Maintaining work relationships is also important in preventing feelings of isolation. Remote workers that live alone are especially susceptible to the stress and loneliness isolation can cause. Employers and HR teams can help all their employees, including those who may be more vulnerable, by maintaining regular lines of communication. Combatting isolation can help employees feel happier and more motivated, which will hopefully reflect positively in their work performance.

Encouraging stress management

Balancing workloads with regular breaks, healthy eating habits, and physical exercise, should all help employees to manage stress more effectively and to stay productive.

Switching off can be essential to good mental health – and the benefits of taking a break are well documented. HR should highlight to their business how breaks:

  • give your body and mind time to relax
  • can make approaching complicated tasks easier
  • restore motivation, and
  • combat stress and exhaustion.

Now more than ever, employers should stress the importance of maintaining the line between personal and professional space (physically and mentally), and why a balance between both is helpful.

HR and line managers can also explain the importance of setting a schedule and having the discipline to stick to it. Switching off at the end of the workday is very important – this includes putting the work laptop away, muting work email notifications on mobile phones, and moving away from the workstation.

Optimise your project management

Work tends to become more task-based in a remote setting, so productivity can remain just as efficient as before. Project management can be supported by a variety of collaborative tools and resources, which HR and line managers should encourage and indeed make use of themselves.

Online project management boards, such as Asana and Trello, can prove highly effective. These tools can update team members in real-time on project statuses, including tasks and sub-tasks, following them through until completion. Such boards tend to be very user-friendly and their team-focused approach fosters greater collaboration.

Use time-tracking responsibly

Time tracking doesn’t need to equate to micromanagement, especially when used responsibly while showing flexibility. For time tracking to have a positive impact on productivity, employers need to be extremely transparent about how it’s going to be used, and how it benefits both the business and employees.

Time tracking can improve timekeeping and provide informed insights about workloads. In this way it can also be invaluable to employees and managers when performance conversations arise.

Cezanne HR’s Timesheets and Time Tracking module allows you to do the above and more, from staying on top of time to routing approvals through.

Be approachable and flexible

Compassion can be important to business performance, and right now it’s needed more than ever. If organisations want to preserve productivity, they need to support a healthy and happy culture, as people work from home.

Showing understanding for each remote worker’s situation, and respecting that everyone has different needs, are both extremely important. Employers need to acknowledge that:

  • some employees are parents or carers and will occasionally be interrupted by familial commitments
  • some employees will prefer to shop during work hours to avoid long queues or crowding
  • some without the luxury of a back garden will need to step out for an hour to take a break, and
  • some will need more time to adjust to remote working.

Empathy helps to build trust and positivity within teams. This approach will give your workforce a continued willingness to work hard – and hopefully thrive while working remotely.

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