It was the digital revolution that changed the way we work: just picture those digital nomads in a hammock in Bali. But who would’ve thought that a global pandemic would give it that last push that drove us out of our offices, and onto our couches and kitchen chairs? Not many people did. So when home office became the new status quo, some got lost.
Working remotely is a dream for many. It gives us the freedom to travel while still making money. More specifically: it allows travel in a way that’s not hopping on a crowded subway or in our freezing car.
But that’s not always possible. And while there’s something to be said for working from the comfort of your own home, it can be more challenging than you’d think. Sure, it’s great to spend more time with the kids and spouses—but there’s a limit.
Why didn’t we do this earlier?
Great question, if you look at the data. The good news for employees is that many studies show that working from home makes people more productive. A pre-pandemic study already showed a 13% increase in productivity in people working from home.
And during lockdown, we learned that working from home means we can better focus on the work that really matters. We spend 12% less time drawn into large meetings (that could’ve been an email), and 9% more time interacting with customers and external partners.
But there’s a side note to these seemingly positive numbers: the circumstances your employees now live and work in. In that particular study, participants had to meet three requirements: have no kids, have a room that wasn’t their bedroom and have quality broadband internet.
A lot of people don’t meet those three requirements. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost and productivity will ultimately dip.
If you want your business to stay steady, it pays to give your employees a hand. Help them make the most out of their working day. What tools can you give them? What tactics can you apply? Let’s dive into five tried and tested ways to boost productivity when working from home.
#1 Give them the right tools
When offices closed, many people had one last chance to grab whatever they could from their desk. But many also had to leave things behind: that nice desktop, comfy and supporting chair, their headsets and favorite coffee mug.
Sure, in most cases all you need is a laptop to work remotely. But to work efficiently, is something else. So for starters, ask your employees what they need to make their working from home set up better. Look into the possibility of using a HVAC maintenance contract template to make sure everyone is warm and cozy in their new home office.
Then it’s time to take a closer look at the apps and tools you use to collaborate. In the office, a whiteboard might have done the trick. There was little to no need for apps to communicate, because you were all in the same room.
But now you have to find new ways to communicate and collaborate. Communication is simultaneously the most difficult thing to do, and the driving force behind success while working remotely. It pays off to invest in it.
Email gets messy, and regular messaging services like WhatsApp mix personal and professional. For a focussed approach, look at professional messaging tools. Slack and Microsoft Teams have proven their worth over the last few months, and way before that.
Make project management a priority
What’s everyone been up to? What needs to be done? You can’t just tap your coworker on the shoulder and ask for a status update. Enable everyone to be able to find the status of relevant products in just a few clicks.
There are some great tools for productivity and project management out there. Asana, Airtable, Trello and ClickUp are just a few of the big names. Look into tools that have what your team needs – and not much more. Don’t overcomplicate it.
Last but not least, make sure everyone’s software is up to date. And take the time to train your employees in using any new tools. You’ll want to be on the same page there.
#2 Set priorities
Employees working from home are juggling a lot at the same time: work, the household, kids, partners and hey, maybe even some self-care.
As a leader, you have the chance to make at least one of those things on that list easier, by eliminating unimportant tasks from their to-do lists. Employees might not be able to recognize what needs their immediate attention, if it’s just on them.
Plus, what you did in the office might not be making sense anymore working remotely, if it ever did. Evaluate the tasks assigned to everyone and cross out what is not in the best interest for either the organization or employee.
This also means you should clearly communicate what your expectations are and where the focus should be for everyone. And: be realistic. A day working from home is just as long as it was in the office. Don’t try to cram more into it.
As for meetings, make them quick and efficient – or turn them into an email. If what needs to be discussed isn’t critical to the business or the well-being of your employees, either cancel it or communicate it in a more flexible way than a meeting.
#3 Define boundaries, and respect them
Understand that while your employees are now technically ‘always at their workplace’ they aren’t always at work.
Setting up boundaries when it comes to acceptable times to message or assign one more task will prevent you from overwhelming or frustrating your employees—something that will definitely reflect on their productivity.
Depending on the work that needs to be done, you can choose to keep up with the standard office hours – for example when there’s a lot of phone calls with clients.
But if that isn’t necessary, consider giving your employees the freedom to work outside office hours as well. That little piece of flexibility might be what those with kids or spouses at home need to be able to work in peace.
Even in that scenario, you can hold up boundaries. The trick is to communicate: what is accepted, expected, and what will simply not work. Advocate honesty and openness about this. In the end, it’ll help everyone collaborate better and get more done.
Yes, overcommunicate. That doesn’t mean you should put those lengthy meetings we mentioned earlier back on the shared calendar. We’re talking about effective and necessary communication here.
Working from home is relatively new to most people and will come with its challenges. There’s no point in ignoring them. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Make communication frequent and consistent: Check in with your employees regularly so they don’t feel like they’re completely on their own. Simultaneously, this will give them the opportunity to ask what they need.
- Be transparent: don’t leave people guessing. If you’re looking to boost productivity, your employees will need all the relevant information they can get. Simply put: take away worries and misunderstandings before they become an obstacle.
- Make it human: there’s a person on the other side of that screen, really. Whether you are communicating in text, email or over Zoom, keep the human factor in mind. If you wouldn’t say something in a certain way face-to-face, don’t type it.
- Show empathy: it’s hard to tell how someone’s doing when you can’t see their facial expressions or body language. How your employees feel hugely affects how they work. Check in with how everyone’s doing every once in a while.
#5 Promote self-care
Someone who starts their working day completely drained from the one before that, won’t get much done – or not in the right way.
Working from bed might sound like a dream, but it’s not really self-care. For some people it’s easier to take care of their mental and physical health than others. Some might need a little reminder or tools to help them get started with taking better care of themselves.
Make mental and physical health a priority for your employees. Get inspired:
- Set up running or workout challenges to keep the team spirit and a little bit of competition alive. Time to sync up those running apps.
- Educate your staff on mental health practices. You can choose newsletters with inputs from experts, or host online webinars on relevant topics such as meditation.
- Appoint someone from HR as the go-to person when employees need someone to talk to, and clearly communicate this. Let there be no shame in needing to rant for a bit.
- Give access to on-demand tools such as meditation of fitness apps.
- Since the office lunch is eliminated from your costs, send your employees some healthy treats to give them a boost.
Is your organisation considering making remote work the new standard, or can you not wait to see your employees again? Either way, for the time being and the possible future, make sure productivity and happiness doesn’t drop – they do go hand in hand.
Author bio: Egle Adomynaite is the Link Building Manager at Skale. She has helping improve the SEO and links for some amazing brands.