What keeps people productive? It can be hard to focus when it may have been weeks since employees saw each other. Managing from a distance comes with a unique set of challenges and it can be a struggle to find the best ways to motivate or support performance. Luckily, there are a few strategies you can try to help your team stay on track and keep those productivity levels high. Even if you can't be together, you can still achieve your targets with the right approach to working from home.
5 ways to increase productivity
What can you do to help your team stay productive even if they're operating in a remote capacity?
Set the rules: One strategy managers can use to help their teams stay on track is to be very explicit about expectations and tasks. Not everyone is a great self-manager and when you're working from home, potentially with distractions like family or kids close at hand, it can be easy to get off track. Setting some ground rules can be one way of creating structure remotely and can help employees feel like they have an anchor. This can be directly about individual work the employee is doing such as having clear deadlines, targets to meet, and metrics to use to track success. Or it can be more team oriented such as setting up a structure for communication. Maybe you'll have a once a week all-team video call plus some individual check-ins. Or perhaps one kind of technology will be used for conference calls and another will be used for chatting. Making the rules clear will help keep employees on track and provide a direction to move forward with.
Find your rhythm: Working from home can be an adjustment for those who aren't used to it. One thing productive teams are doing right now is finding a way to set up the day that works for everyone. Keep in mind, that doesn't mean all your staff needs to work the same way. One of the benefits of remote work is the flexibility it brings your team. Supportive managers can work with their employees to suggest different ways to work that fit their current situations. That might include shifting online hours to start earlier or run later into the evening. It could be carving out a different space at home that's only used for work to simulate going to the office. Or it could be scheduling coffee breaks and check-ins with teammates over the course of a week to combat isolation. There are many ways to change how we work to create the most productive environment for success.
Provide tech training: It might seem like we're living in a world were everyone is a tech wiz but you should never make assumptions about employees' skill levels without checking with them first. Some people may be more comfortable with technology or have more access to it than others. People might have left tech they needed in the office when lockdowns started. Or maybe a new tool was required when the team jumped to remote work that not everyone was familiar with. Check with your staff and gauge everyone's ability level either in one-on-ones or with the help of an employee survey. And remember, if you're bringing on any new tech tools, provide training to the whole team to ensure everyone is starting with the same base of knowledge.
Consider personalities: Coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution to remote work can be tempting for managers but try to resist the urge. We have a new ability to manage everyone the way they want (or need) to be managed at the moment without infringing on others. Spend time with each team member and have conversations about how they are doing as the pandemic carries on and what adjustments need to be made to ensure the employee can stay productive. Different personalities might require different levels of support or connection to do their best work. After all, everyone has different motivations and challenges that might impact how they approach their roles. Gaining a sense of that can help managers notice when employees might be struggling so they can step in to help.
End the day right: It can be hard to stop when work life and home life happen in the same place. Falling into the habit of always being available is easy to do but can also lead to employee burnout, difficulty sleeping, and increased stress. One strategy to help compartmentalize both areas of life is to encourage employees to create a clocking-out ritual to signal to their brain that the day is over and it's time to switch into evening mode. This can be anything from physically putting your work away in a drawer to checking your email one last time for the night. The idea is to come up with some sort of action that you repeat every day until it becomes a habit that allows you to stop and disengage from your workday.
Don't let productivity decline
Working from home doesn't have to mean less work gets done. While we might all struggle with procrastination from time to time, being productive at home is all about finding a solution that works for you. Once you know how to approach time management effectively, you'll find that endless to-do list gets shorter. The important thing to keep in mind either as an employee or a manager is to protect well-being while encouraging performance. Overall productivity is important but so is creating healthy working conditions for teams. People do their best work when they are secure and engaged. And remember to keep checking in. What worked for employees at the start of the pandemic might not be what works the whole way through so make sure everyone is communicating with each other and sharing strategies on what works best for them. Adjust course as needed and embrace being flexible. The teams that are succeeding right now are the ones who are finding new and different ways of coming together in order to achieve their goals.