Keeping employees productive when remote working for an extended period

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Africa Studio)

The current social environment means an unprecedented number of UK employees are having to work from home to prevent the spread of disease. While businesses are facing a difficult time, if workers are suitably briefed on remote working protocol and strategies are implemented to enable consistent communication, such a transition should be frictionless. We take a look here at ways business leaders can ensure productivity remains high and working from home does nothing to disrupt the workforce.

Using tech to connect

There is a wealth of communication tools that can be utilised to preserve communication and collaboration at this time of flux. As well as using instant messaging apps, screen-sharing and video conferencing tools can enable employees working remotely to create a rapport and stay in touch.

Web-based file sharing tools like Google Drive can function as shared document repositories and let team members share and work within the same document, enabling collaboration. Webinars and webcasting tools can also be taken advantage of for bigger projects and meetings.

With so many new technologies available, businesses have a chance to change pre-existing attitudes to remote working and ensure their workers continue to feel supported during this time.

Implementing policies to stop digital presenteeism

In the digital age, technology keeps us connected regardless of geography and time zone, and can therefore create instances of ‘digital presenteeism’, whereby workers feel they must constantly be available to work. With no physical separation between home, work and leisure during times of remote working, quarantine and self-isolation, employees might find themselves replying to emails or carrying out tasks outside of their allotted working hours.

This ‘always-on’ culture has been linked to spikes in mental health conditions and increased stress; a report by Microsoft found nearly nine in ten Brits have experienced anxiety as a result of work pressure making it hard to switch off from work because of the effect of technology- and that is without factoring in the added pressures of the coronavirus.

As such, business leaders must implement procedures to safeguard work and life boundaries. Communicate clearly to workers that you don’t expect them to work outside of their contracted hours, and work to develop a culture that rewards productivity and not presence. It is important to stress to your workforce that those showing they’re online and responding to emails out of work hours does not make them better at their job in the eyes of the company.

Make sure everyone is clear on ownership and management

With a significant proportion of employees working remotely, it is easy for misunderstandings to arise around who is taking charge of what, and who may be on annual or sick leave. To stop this from occurring, companies should implement simple practices such as setting up departmental shared calendars and clear out of office signals for anyone not working, to make sure all staff are aware of availability. Establish a clear line of command for all projects and tasks so everyone knows what tasks are owned by which employees.

Regular remote meetings are key

Frequent check-ins for every worker with their team and manager are important in order to ensure staff do not feel isolated and are kept in the loop. Workflow or task management platforms like Trello or Monday can work to help employees know their personal actions for the week and the status of any individual task. Slack or other instant message platforms can be taken advantage of to facilitate efficient communication for some projects and keep fast lines of communication going.

Nurture a culture of trust

Although many business leaders may worry about productivity dipping with workers away from the office, companies must work hard to ensure they create a culture of trust that promotes loyalty and empowers workers. Treat all staff equally; any irregularities can create friction and politics that slow productivity.

Try to ensure routine stays in place; keep initiatives and processes going virtually wherever possible so that office traditions are not lost and workers maintain a sense of normality at this time of change.

Implementing these simple steps will help to ensure remote working during the coronavirus pandemic will be a smooth and productive experience for all. Companies both large and small will require a plan of action to make sure there is as little disruption to the day-to-day as possible, and communication will be the crucial component going forward. Taking advantage of technology that enables such communication to continue will help productivity levels and keep staff happy and motivated.

Andrew Johnson is MD at PowWowNow

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson is the Managing Director (MD) at PowWowNow. He is a highly accomplished, entrepreneurial Finance Director, with a wealth of transferable skills honed from an accelerated career trajectory operating within fast-growing mid-sized organisations across the Technology, Telecommunications, Managed Services & Property Development, Aviation sectors throughout the last 15+ years.