Before COVID-19, only 5% of Americans were classified as remote workers. By May of 2020, that number was at 60%…and it’s not changing anytime soon.
Despite the American workforce shifting toward remote or flexible work policies faster than ever before, mid-level managers may have a difficult time convincing higher-ups of the benefits of making the switch. Remote work often still gets a bad reputation for lower productivity rates or creating an environment where it’s easy for employees to slack off.
Despite the general belief that remote working can have negative effects on an employee’s performance, recent research says differently. In a survey of 800 employers, 94% reported no changes in productivity when switching to remote work. In fact, some studies indicated an increase in productivity when working from home.
Remote work removes the social distractions of the workplace, eliminates long commutes, and adds flexibility to an employee’s overall workday. Workers can squeeze in at-home workouts, enjoy the company of family or pets on a lunch break, and generally work in the comfort of their own space- all things that can make the work experience overall more enjoyable.
Additionally, contrary to decades of corporate practice, the standard workplace is far from ideal. The average employee spends most of the eight hour day checking their email (an average of 74 times a day) or touching their smartphone (an average of 2,617 times a day). Employees are distracted and tuned to be hyper-responsive, which wears down on productivity over time. Giving employees the flexibility and comfort of a WFH schedule can reduce the frantic tempo that an office environment often creates. Taking frequent breaks and keeping the time you devote to tasks under 30 minutes is also better for productivity, and remote work is perfectly suited for this type of pacing.
Multiple Fortune 500 businesses are making the switch to remote or hybrid policies in 2021 and beyond. Zillow, Twitter, and Facebook are just three companies that recently announced shifting towards more flexible work models that incorporate remote work. At Zillow, 90% of their workforce will now have the option to work from home permanently, with onsite locations remaining open for collaborative use if needed.
If you’re looking to implement permanent WFH or hybrid policies in your workplace, here are some best practices to implement to keep employees productive.
Ensure your tech stack helps you collaborate
First, use technology to encourage collaboration, not to micromanage employees. Utilize software that tracks project progress, keep team members up-to-date on timelines, and create open lines of communication between team members and supervisors. Technology that tracks screen time, cursor movement, etc. can make an employee feel they aren’t trusted to do their job in the environment provided. When your team feels empowered to work without a manager looking over their shoulder, projects get done.
Spend time together face-to-face virtually
Second, meet face-to-face regularly with your employees (both in teams and through one-on-ones). No amount of emails, texts, or Slack messages can replace the benefit of live interactions. Carving out space to hammer out complex details or spend time collaborating is crucial to making employees feel seen and heard. In addition, it allows you to add context and clarity to projects or instructions, something that may be lacking in the quick email you sent over without too much thought.
Give the benefit of the doubt more often
Third, assume the positive about your employees. If you don’t receive a reply right away or someone is late to a video call, remember that the work-from-home environment presents its own unique set of challenges. That same employee may be cleaning up after a pet, tending to a sick child, or dealing with an unexpected WiFi issue. Creating a positive work environment that assumes the best about your employees and provides room for mistakes is not only key in establishing a healthy workplace culture- it’s a huge boost to productivity. Poor leaders who created a difficult remote work environment were the primary causes of lower productivity rates in a recent 2020 study.
One more thing that’s eliminated with working remotely? That storage cabinet filled with employee records. See how Kin HR can help you have great HR practices without the physical paper trail.