Working remotely often leaves people feeling happier. However, a recent survey indicates that working from home can also make about a third of employees less productive. There are many additional issues too which can arise from remote working, such as mental health difficulties resulting from limited socialization.
Right now, however, working remotely is the only option available for the majority of businesses. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns it has caused, even businesses which hadn’t previously used telecommuting are now having to do this. And this situation will last for a while, because a second wave of the pandemic may be about to start soon.
All this considered, managers today need to be prepared to work remotely with their teams. In such circumstances, a reduction in productivity is a given. Therefore it is essential to develop effective strategies and use specialized solutions for dealing with this.
Step 1: Develop a Daily Schedule (and Include Breaks!)
You start working on any project by developing a detailed plan, right?
Switching to remote work is a project in itself. Having a plan to work to will help your employees to adjust to the change and remain productive.
The majority of people who struggle with working from home cite lack of organization as the principal reason. You can help solve this by creating schedules for your employees, using a variety of scheduling tools not only to help your people with planning but also to monitor your employees’ progress. This will enable you to see who needs more help with adjusting to remote working.
You can use a variety of scheduling apps such as Deputy or Shiftboard to shuffle shifts and manage staff schedules. On a personal level you should use day planning apps, like Any.do or Zen Day. These will allow you to create an effective daily schedule similar to the one that you use to manage your office work.
Most importantly, remember to add in breaks when planning your employees’ work days. One of the hardest things to come to terms with when working from home is the line between relaxation and work. Strict scheduling of work hours and break times should help with this, thereby preventing any lapse in productivity.
Step 2: Smooth Out the Workflow
You cannot easily monitor the workflow when your team works from home, so you should use software which will enable you to do exactly this. What you need is an effective task management solution with a variety of features. MeisterTask can help you with this, and can be adapted to meet the needs of any team. It is this level of personalization which allows you to achieve maximum productivity.
Using Kanban-style project boards will ensure that you stay appraised of the progress of all team members. This solution also allows for automating workflows, which will further boost your overall productivity. Analyze the project’s progress and your team’s contributions to see if you need to adjust your management strategy. The data will show you whose performance needs extra work.
Deploying task management platforms will also ensure that your whole team knows exactly where they stand in relation to other members of the team. This is important when working remotely as people can become confused if they don’t remain in communication with colleagues. The board will clearly show the project’s overall progress allowing everyone to stay on the same page.
Step 3: Keep the People Socializing
Being locked down at home can be extremely stressful. The magnitude of this issue is such that the WHO predicts a surge in mental health issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of socialization is one of the main contributory factors behind these problems, and so quite naturally it is also a major reason behind any reduction in employee productivity.
Therefore, keeping socialization levels high should be one of your priorities. Today you can accomplish this with the help of video conferencing software, like Zoom, Skype, or Viber.
Another important thing to remember is that these conferences can be used for a range of purposes and not only for work. Of course, discussing the projects in this manner will help boost the results of using task management software. For this, you should schedule regular check-ins to discuss work-related tasks. Be sure to organize a conference at the end of the day for everyone to enable everybody to report on their progress and plan for tomorrow.
You can also though use these conferences to catch up with personal matters. Remember that the best teams are the ones where people are not only colleagues but friends as well, so try to keep up personal interactions in spite of the distance involved. Note that it’s important to use such occasions to talk about matters other than work. Discuss movies, play games, or start an online office book club. Share stories of how everyone is coping with isolation and brainstorm ideas on how to relax and have fun despite the unusual situation in which they find themselves.
The most important thing is to make sure everyone feels connected even when they can’t be physically close.
Step 4: Organize Private Interviews Online
Group meetings are good, but you also shouldn’t forget that your employees will need more reassurance during this time. Therefore, you should schedule personal meetings (video chats) with each of them. Such meetings should be held regularly, although not daily.
Use this time to discuss the employee’s progress and help them set goals for the next week. You also should inquire about how they are dealing with the new arrangement. Offer any advice and support that you can.
Most importantly, use this opportunity to help your employees develop a strategy for minimizing distraction. There are many techniques that can be used to achieve this, for example playing background music, using to-do lists, locking up the home office, rearranging worktables and so on.
Be mindful that many people’s homes and home lives aren’t suited for working from their living space, and so they will be unable to establish a quiet private area which will be needed to enable them to concentrate on work. You’ll need to discuss every employee’s situation individually with them and try to find a solution for each. It may prove necessary for you to provide them with some equipment from the office.
If there is nothing you can do to improve the setting you will need to help the employee plan their work more carefully. Set realistic goals to ensure maximum performance in the given circumstances.
In Conclusion: Facing the Challenges of Working from Home
Working from home can be hard for some people, especially if they are not accustomed to it. This type of work requires a high level of self-discipline and organization. If your employees are lacking in these skills, you’ll need to provide them with specialized training.
Start by offering advice and support, as well as tools which can simplify the work process. This will help prevent a drop in productivity, in fact remote workers can potentially be more productive compared to those staying in the office. If you organize the work-from-home process correctly, it is possible you will end up with better productivity and results overall.
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