If you manage a team of remote employees, you may be struggling to figure out whether your employees are working. After all, offices made it easy to take attendance. If workers were at their desks, it was assumed they were working.
But in the new age of remote work, how do you know if your remote employees are working?
Of course, there are plenty of productivity monitoring solutions. Software can be installed to monitor employees’ keystrokes and online activity. But if certain employees want to shirk their responsibilities, they’ll find ways to get around the software.
Further, productivity monitoring software instills a culture of micromanagement and lack of trust. This could cause higher turnover levels as employees search for workplaces that allow for more autonomy and have a more flexible culture.
So how can you ensure that your remote employees are working when you can’t see them in person? Here are 5 ways to monitor productivity without resorting to surveillance techniques or micromanagement.
Focus on the results produced, not the hours worked
The shift to remote work has necessitated a change in the way that many managers think about productivity. Rather than monitoring when employees clock in and out, focus on the results they are producing. Are they up to scratch? Are they what you expect?
If so, chances are they are working as they should be. It seems obvious, but if you have been only managing in-office employees, the shift to the remote work mentality of outcomes over hours can be hard.
Christiaan Huynen, CEO of DesignBro, said: “Logically speaking, you know if your team member is working based on the volume and quality of the output.
“There should be no need to physically see any employee at any given time to know if they are working.
“The managers simply need to identify what needs to be done and when then communicate this with the employees and check in on them as needed to give guidance and support.”
And Victoria Hedley, SVP of operations at Voxpopme, agrees. She said: “The first thing to remember is that seeing employees sit at their desk is not an indication of them working or working successfully.
“At Voxopme, we have employees located all around the globe and focus on culture, progress, and outcomes. That can be seen in the way we collaborate — which can happen in a synchronous or asynchronous way — and in the way we make progress toward our goals. We live our value of trusting and respecting each other and trust that our teams get stuff done — even when they are not being ‘supervised’ in-person.”
Keep in mind that a remote employee working from home may have other demands on their time, such as childcare or taking care of a family member. As long as they are meeting your expectations in terms of productivity, there is no need to micromanage their hours. Trust that they are working as they should be, and focus on the results they are producing.
Eliminate distractions by setting clear goals and timelines
Remote employees are often left to manage their own time. Without the structure of a traditional work environment, it can be easy to get bogged down in tasks that aren’t priorities or to become overwhelmed and end up procrastinating.
These issues can be resolved by setting clear goals and timelines during which these goals should be accomplished. Setting goals gives remote employees a sense of direction and allows them to focus their efforts on tasks that are truly priorities. Having timelines for these goals provides a sense of urgency and ensures that the goals are not forgotten or put off indefinitely. When goals and timelines are clear, distractions are eliminated and productivity increases.
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, likes to use the Four Week Cycles strategy to encourage accountability and productivity.
With this approach, employees and managers meet at the beginning of the month and a list of tasks and priorities are assigned. For the following four weeks, these priorities do not change unless there is a substantial interference. The expectation and requirement are that by the end of the cycle, all tasks are complete.
Michael added: “One reason this approach to productivity management is so effective is that it creates strong accountability. In many workplaces, especially at startups and remote offices, deadlines can be missed with reasonable explanations of working on other projects that came up.
“With the Four Week Cycles, you bypass this opportunity for distractions. In addition, because there is a clear focus on project completion, you ensure that month to month you are moving projects forward with significant milestones.
“Perhaps my favorite feature of Four Week Cycles is that you can disregard looking at inputs such as time, and focus on the outcomes instead. This approach is good for the company, managers and employees.”
This approach also weeds out employees who are not performing. Their goals and deadlines are clear, if they consistently deliver delayed work, then it might be time for a conversation about productivity.
Create productivity incentives
Productivity looks different in a remote environment. So to make sure your employees are working, you must encourage a shift in the way they work first.
Remote workers may need to shift their mentality to an approach where they focus on the results they’ve produced rather than the hours they’ve worked. One way to do this is to provide financial incentives for high achievers. This can be a great way to recognize people who are doing a good job and motivate them to keep up the good work. Of course, these incentives must be carefully designed so that they don’t create unhealthy competition or pressure within the team. But when done right, they can be a great way to boost productivity.
Amit Raj, CEO of the Links Guy has a fully remote workforce consisting of 30 employees. For him, measuring productivity comes in more than one form, but incentives are an important part of encouraging employees to focus on outcomes.
He said: “While we do have a need for team members to work a minimum number of hours, for all of our employees, we have also included an incentive element as well.
“Essentially this means there is a further financial reward after each quarter, which is determined by the impact that team member had on results.
“The important thing is that you need to be able to track the data and attribute results accurately — be it sales or the number of leads.”
Use asynchronous communication tools to encourage productivity
Software monitoring productivity is likely to backfire. But how could companies make use of tech to encourage productivity in remote employees and ensure they’re working?
Asynchronous communication is communication that does not require all parties to be present at the same time. This type of communication is critical for productivity in a remote work environment, where employees are not always able to be available for real-time conversations.
Brian Casel, the founder of ZipMessage, a popular video messaging tool for asynchronous conversations, agrees.
He said: “At the core of it all, remote teams don’t need more software to complicate their internal processes and communications — they need the right software.
“Equipping your teams with asynchronous messaging tools, for example, lets you replace unnecessary meetings and invasive check-ins with a medium that’s a lot more collaborative and streamlined.
“Rather than breaking the focus of your employees simply to monitor what they’re doing during the day, async tools offer employees the flexibility they need to craft in-depth messages and updates at a time that’s most suitable for them.
“Eliminating the urgency of constantly wanting real-time updates instils a sense of trust within remote teams and fosters a better working relationship between you and your team members.”
By using asynchronous communication tools and setting clear goals, companies can encourage productivity in the remote workforce.
And using task management apps is a great way to manage asynchronous work too. James Parkinson, Head of Marketing Content at Personnel Checks, said: “Use a project or task management app. There is a wealth to choose from, including many free options.
“Workers can see at a glance what is being asked and tick them off as they go. Managers have a good overview of workload and can be proactive about checking with the workers if it appears timelines are being stretched.”
Get to know your employees and vary your strategy accordingly
Gary Warner, Marketing Manager at Joloda Hydraroll, said: “Get to know your employees, and understand what works best for them in terms of deadlines and reporting. Some may actually appreciate a bit more pressure, with regular check-ins and tighter deadlines, whereas others work better if left to their own devices.
“That said, regularly reviewing that your approach is working is also important. If a team member is left to manage their own time, but is failing to submit work within an acceptable time frame, then be prepared to make changes. Make it clear to team members that you are willing to work with their preferred approach, but only so long as work is being submitted and completed promptly.”
Maciek Kubiak, Head of People at photoAiD, suggests a more straightforward approach for employees who seem to be struggling with productivity. He said: “Simply ask them and see if they are able to give you a detailed answer. If they seem vague or confused, it’s a good sign that they may not be working as much as they should be.
“Another way to tell is by looking at their work product. If it’s sloppy and incomplete, it’s likely that they’re not putting in the effort that you expect.”
How to make sure your remote employee is working
In order to ensure that remote workers are productive, employers need to focus on results rather than hours worked. One way to do this is by setting clear goals and timelines. This will help employees to stay on track and avoid getting sidetracked by distractions. Additionally, productivity incentives can be a great way to motivate remote workers. These can include bonuses, commission, or even simply acknowledging and celebrating good work.
Finally, it is important to use asynchronous communication tools such as email or chat in order to encourage productivity. This allows employees to complete tasks at their own pace without feeling pressure to respond immediately. Employers should also get to know their employees in order to vary their strategy accordingly. By taking these steps, they can ensure that their remote workers are productive and meeting goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you track productivity when employees work from home?
There are a few key strategies that can help managers keep tabs on productivity, even when employees are working from home. First, it is important to set clear goals and expectations. What needs to be accomplished, and by when? Once these parameters are established, managers can then check in with employees on a regular basis to see how they are progressing.
Also, managers should focus on results rather than hours worked. Rather than tracking how long employees are logged into their computers, it is more productive to set goals and deadlines instead. By shifting the emphasis from time spent working to actual results achieved, managers can get a better sense of whether employees are truly being productive.
How does asynchronous communication affect remote work?
When everyone is working from different locations, it can be difficult to stay on the same page. With asynchronous communication, everyone has a clear record of goals and progress. This makes it easy to stay focused and on track, even when you can’t be in the same room with your team. In addition, asynchronous communication can help to create a more flexible work schedule. By not being tied to real-time conversations, you can work when it works best for you and still stay connected with your team. Ultimately, asynchronous communication can be a great way to boost productivity for remote workers.
Are workers less productive at home?
No, in fact workers are more productive at home. A recent study found that workers are actually 10% more productive when they work from home. This productivity boost is likely due to a number of factors, including the lack of distractions from colleagues, and the increased flexibility when it comes to hours and working from different locations. In addition, remote work allows for asynchronous communication, which can be much more efficient than constantly interrupting each other with questions or requests.
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