How to Manage Performance, Productivity and Engagement When You Are Remote Working
- January 25, 2022
At first, the lockdown situation instilled a sense of camaraderie into many teams. The ‘all in this together’ attitude prevailed as employees saw first-hand how colleagues coped with the strange new way of remote working.
Now, several months on, it is time for leaders to look at how remote working has affected their team and their organisation. Has remote working affected performance, and if so, in what way?
In this article, I take a look at the unique challenges leaders now face when managing performance, productivity and engagement in remote workers, starting with the effect on productivity.
How Does Remote Work Really Impact Productivity?
We have witnessed how many of the jobs people were performing in offices until March 2020 can be carried out with ease from home. Despite organisations having the technology which would have allowed en-mass remote working for years, employers were reluctant to let this happen, over fears of a reduction in productivity.
Does remote working then improve, or reduce productivity? The answer is not exactly straightforward.
You can find supporting arguments on either side of this issue, such as this Airtasker study which claims remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than office-based counterparts.
Then you only have to read personal accounts of remote working such as Anna Bosworth, who says that between the hours of 5 am – 8.30 pm she “can’t do anything productive” to realise the issue is not clear-cut.
Clearly, the issue is divisive and specific to your individual team members.
In some instances, productivity will increase. Individual employees within the office (think IT support) will see a considerable decrease in the number of interruptions they get in a day. Other roles of a creative nature and which rely on collaboration can go the opposite way.
So let’s take a look at the way remote working can impact employee performance in these roles.
Advocates of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and a vast array of other remote working software were quick to tell us that we can do our jobs exactly as we do them in the office, but from the comfort of our own homes.
While this might be the case for some, other roles are highly dependant on the collaborative nature of the office which, as yet, doesn’t have a substitute.
Brigid Delany, writing in the Guardian defends the importance of the physical workplace; highlighting not just innovation, but fellowship and friendship.
The key to managing high performance in remote workers is flexibility. Getting to know your employee’s working styles will allow you to give as much or as little communication as they individually need. Some employees will maintain their performance with minimum contact; others will need more support.
Additionally, talk to your team about any issues that remote working could be having on their performance. Some peoples lives and home aren’t set up for relaxed home-working. You might only be able to offer suggestions, but being aware is half the problem.
Remember, you can always offer different working hours and support to employees who are struggling.
The Effects of Remote Working on Engagement
Your employees might have transitioned into remote working with surprising ease, some of them will probably say they prefer it. But as teams become physically distant for long periods, leaders must find a way to keep employee engagement high, and this can be done by marrying work with a sense of purpose.
A PWC study found that 73% of employees who say they work at a ‘purpose-driven’ company are engaged. However, the feeling of engagement can become diluted when individuals are working from home alone.
When you distil your company mission into something all employees can relate to and feel proud of, engagement will increase. And engagement creates success.
Why does your company do what they do? What is your contribution to the world, and how can you continue to do this to make the world a better place? Communicate these messages to your team consistently to ensure engagement stays high while your team are working separately from each other.
Finally, what aspects of leadership must you exhibit to help your team cope remotely?
Exceptional Leadership Skills
Look how quickly your organisation reacted to the coronavirus – most managed the highly unusual situation excellently. Use this as inspiration for managing going forwards – trust in the ability of your team to deal with challenging situations.
Agile leadership will also be critical for success. Many leaders are using the ‘straight to yes’ model of leadership that has evolved from the crisis. Where before it might have taken weeks or even months to make a decision, leaders who can make decisions efficiently will enjoy better successes than those who stall.
Empathetic leadership is essential right now. It is best to err on the side of caution and be more lenient than harsh with remote employees; as I have highlighted here, remote working presents its own set of challenges which can be significant for some individuals.
Decisions post the pandemic must come from a place of thinking about protecting your business for the long term, rather than being reactive to short-term issues which will not be here forever while maintaining a feeling of trust between management and remote employees throughout.
The Issue of Recruitment?
Of course, the recruitment side of your business will have also been changed due to social distancing. Whether your recruitment process has gone digital or you paused hiring as remote recruitment was not possible, we can help.
We are currently supporting organisations to recruit the talent they need in this business-critical time.
So get in touch with us today on 01905 381320 or contact us here to find out how we can find you the right candidates for your current vacancies.
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