It is now around a year since the world of work – among other things! – changed for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic saw people making the switch to working from home and businesses pivoting to remote working, often overnight or across a single weekend.
2021’s “return to the office” looks different wherever you look. We have some business bosses saying everyone will be back in the office come summer. Others seem happier to continue having their teams work from home and are not planning to return to the office in vast numbers.
Among those doubtful about which route they will take, it is common to observe concerns about maintaining productivity when your people are working from home. It amazes me that we are here in the 21st century, and people still think people work better if they have "Big Brother" watching them.
Whether you are adamant people should return to the office or have more of an open mind, here are six ways you can increase and maintain productivity among your remote workforce.
1. Encourage and inspire everyone to contribute
One of the foundations of our success here at Contractbook is our flat organisational structure. Not only does this allow our team members to organise their work without being micromanaged, it means our team is essentially one huge support network for itself.
This structure encourages and inspires everyone in our team to contribute ideas and means the guy who started working here yesterday is just as valued and vital to our success as our CEO.
What does any of this have to do with productivity?
By working this way, no-one in your team will be sitting at home waiting for instructions on their next task. They will get on with something else on occasions where they are waiting for guidance and will always be willing to put forward ideas that could help make your entire business more productive.
I have seen businesses thrive on the back of ideas from "junior" team members when the "leadership" was so caught up in task it could not see what could be done better.
Your business could be another one!
2. Value personality over talent
The All Blacks rugby union team calls this the “no dickheads” rule. At Contractbook we are a little more reserved and say we do not want brilliant jerks on our team!
While recruitment is seen as one of the most significant challenges of remote working, it does not have to be. However, you must get it right.
It is easy to think you might be able to get away with having talented people who leave something to be desired in the personality department if they work remotely. Yet, I would argue that it is actually even more vital that you have someone who fits your culture in this scenario rather than a “brilliant jerk.”
Value personality first, and you will always have people working in your business that you can rely on and are productive remote workers.
3. Focus on the future and not past performance
It might sound a little harsh to dismiss past achievements, but what use is that to you in the here and now?
How often do we see sports teams, whether that be in the NBA, football leagues across Europe, or other sports, fall off their pedestal because they failed to reinvent and move forward? Winning the title last year is no guarantee of success today or tomorrow.
Instil this within your teams as part of your culture. Team members who get it will be motivated and inspired to keep pushing their performance, helping to drive you forward. Keep your teams hungry and aiming for the next goal!
4. Let people work where they want, when they want
Does it really matter specifically when they put their work hours in?
Sure, there might be meetings and some things that need to happen at a specific time. And you might want those hours working from Monday to Friday. But do you really need people working Dolly Parton hours?
I once had a guy working for me who looked like he hated his job, but his only issue was that he had a lot going on in his life and working "regular" hours meant he always had a lot on his mind. I let him choose his working patterns, and he was a revelation!
Embrace asynchronous work and let your people work when they feel they will be most productive and enjoy the positive difference they make!
5. Treat people like they are in the office
Do not fall into the trap of seeing working remotely or from home as an incentive in itself. Businesses often spend a fortune making their offices feel great and filling them with comfortable furniture and things they feel will boost productivity and employee wellbeing.
If your team members are not in the office, you should still treat them as if they are! If remote working has cut your business expenses, can you redirect some of that spending to creating a budget for your team members to buy something to enhance their workspace at home?
While working at home can be great, so can something new and decorative to brighten up the space and remind you of being at work!
6. Cut the meetings
Yes, Zoom fatigue is a real thing!
You would not expect your team members to be in meetings all day if they were in the office, so try and keep your remote meetings to a minimum, too. This is especially so if you have fallen into the habit of having a meeting for every mundane thing. I spoke to someone this week who found themselves on a Microsoft Teams call to share a screen while sending out an email marketing campaign!
You might even extend this to not requiring people to be present on Slack, for example, every hour they are at work. Sure, communication tools have a part to play in remote productivity, but they can be a productivity killer, too!
Increasing productivity with remote workers
Having a remote team delivering supercharged productivity levels is easily achievable, provided you create the environment to make it happen! Put these tips into practice in your business to ensure you have the right set of values and culture to ensure your team and business can thrive, even if you all rarely get together in the office!