Can Remote Working and Productivity Coexist?
For some organizations, the transition towards a more flexible working environment has been slow to get off the ground, with many managers fearing a lack of collaboration between the team members in separate locations.
Undoubtedly, the events of 2020 have prompted teams to trial new ways of working that may previously have been met with a degree of hesitation. But now, as we become ingrained in this new culture, are key stakeholders any more convinced of the effectiveness of remote working? Do they trust their teams to be productive?
Lockdown has proved that working from home is possible, and in some cases, has helped teams to focus on more innovative ways to communicate and collaborate. As the results of our latest survey on remote working reveal, “more hours spent on work during the lockdown meant that people also felt more productive,” with only a fifth of respondents claiming they felt less productive.
Arguably, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – only by evaluating key metrics, such as company revenue and project-related KPIs, can we prove just how productive remote teams can be. But the fact that phrases such as ‘digital transformation’, and even ‘remote working’, have already lost their status as a buzzword means they are accepted as an inevitable part of the new normal. Even’ online meetings’ are now referred to simply as ‘meetings’. As such, the focus now should not be whether remote working allows for productivity, but how productive can we be remote, as we look to the future.
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The challenges of sustaining productivity
Although most of us have needed to carry out at least part of our work remotely this year, experiences seem to differ from individual to individual, and from company to company. Barriers to productivity can be varied, from adjusting to a new working environment and commitments, being faced with either a lack of or an overwhelming array of tools with which to work.
A juggling act
Recent studies have highlighted difficulties for some employees (for instance, working parents) in remaining productive at certain times of the day, with many of those we surveyed admitting it was hard to strike the right balance between work and other commitments.
Another challenge among respondents was the ability to draw a clear line between work time and personal time, for instance, at the beginning and end of the working day, potentially having a negative impact on productivity during these time periods.
Toiling with technology
Meanwhile, for others, a lack of up-to-date – or streamlined – technology has been a significant barrier to productivity, with teams using an endless combination of disparate point solutions to communicate with each other or share content. However, as Matthew Hollingsworth from WeWorkRemotely sums up:
“Better communication technology is obviously one of the main drivers of the rise of remote work. There really aren’t any barriers to starting a remote-friendly company now – you just need a computer, stable Wi-Fi, a team productivity/project management app, and you’re off to the races.”
Admittedly, the type of project management platform you need may take some consideration, depending on your company’s specific needs. That said, the investment will soon pay off as it brings everyone together once more and begins to drive efficiencies – and therefore improves productivity – across the company.
Trust breeds motivation (which breeds higher productivity)
As Ford’s visionary automaker Lee Iacocca famously remarked: “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can’t miss.” This sentiment still holds today and should be applied equally to remote teams as to those working in a traditional office environment.
However, it’s evident that some executive teams are battling with trust issues. A recent report revealed two main grievances among staff critical of their employers’ approach to productivity in recent months:
- Managers don’t understand how much work they are completing at home, with extended hours in particular not being recognized.
- While balancing competing obligations, such as childcare or homeschooling, managers expect them to carry on as normal, rather than promoting a more flexible approach.
Taking the issue of trust (or lack of trust) one step further, some companies have resorted to implementing surveillance software to keep tabs on staff by capturing keystrokes, logging websites visited, and taking screenshots at regular intervals throughout the day.
However, as we know, autonomy is a significant driver of employee engagement, which is, in turn, closely linked to productivity. What’s more, according to the Workplace Research Foundation, highly-engaged teams are 38% more likely to achieve above-average levels of productivity.
In fact, a resounding 82% of those we surveyed confirmed the freedom of choosing their working location is important to them. Therefore, rather than infringe on staff privacy, a far more effective way would be to instill trust and confidence in employees by keeping an open mind, listening to feedback, and trying out new communication and collaboration techniques.
Building an environment that promotes productivity
For organizations that have considered digital transformation strategies over the years, and are now forced to adopt a long-term digital-first approach, combining a full technology stack with a proactive effort to drive engagement will ultimately result in higher productivity. As long as executives avoid the temptation to focus solely on technology, and can follow the mantra that “successful digital transformation requires equal investments in technologies, people, and processes that drive business value”, then productivity should naturally rise as a result of this transition.
At Scoro, we are all for promoting flexible work where possible, giving everyone the autonomy to decide where they feel most comfortable (and, of course, most productive) working. As our survey found, for the 82% mentioned above, allowing staff to have some input into their work location is vital for retaining engagement. We don’t see physical distance as a barrier to productivity, as employees have all the resources they need within our platform, regardless of where they may be working.
So, if you’re considering whether remote working and productivity can co-exist, the short answer is: with the right tools and right team in place, yes, they can. If anything, it’s a combination that can lead to higher productivity than ever before.