Hacks For Keeping Productivity In Place

If, as the days trudge by, you find yourself notching tally marks into your kitchen table while struggling to salvage your best laid work-from-home (WFH) plans, you’re in good company. The COVID-19 pandemic has required many of us to adapt to working from home. Our workspace, workstyles, and life interactions have also changed drastically over this imposed experiment.

With more employees WFH than ever before, the challenges of managing and maintaining productivity loom large.

Some of the greatest among them, according to a survey conducted by Owl Labs, are IT issues (59%) and interruptions and being talked over during hybrid meetings (67%). As with good old fashioned “IRL” work, a goals-driven approach helps keep the figurative ducks in a row, but a new normal of WFH is still unmapped territory for many.

A Global Workplace Analytics’ Analysis of 2018 American Community Service Data revealed that only 3.6% of the workforce (5 million employees) were working from home half-time or more, a figure bound to have already transformed drastically). Experts anticipte that figure could climb to nearly 25% in the weeks and months to come.

Hatching A Plan To Manage The Chaos

In relative isolation, the laws of time and space can warp and alter on a laptop screen, especially if you spend a lot of time on Zoom.

Productive remote working begins with a clear agenda and measurable objectives. Provided that teams chart out a proverbial north star from the inception of each assignment (timeline and allocation of tools and resources), subsequent check-ins online can provide a forum for questions, constructive criticism, and updates rather than a meet-up for disoriented people in sweatpants who used to be your colleagues.

But what about those those who do not identify as “self starters”? The ones we have always valued for reasons other than sheer, tooth-gnashing motivation? While freelancers paid per project deliverable are likely accustomed to finishing projects on time and to standard, full-time and part-time workers getting to grips with the new normal of a remote slog might appreciate a gentle nudge via project management systems.

Making The Most of "Meetings"

People thrive at their jobs when they feel recognized for their contributions. A survey by business and marketing consultancy Brandon and Gaille gleaned that a whopping 32% of workers preferred a morale boost even to money. The budding culture of remote work may place less emphasis on hierarchies overall; but it also ups the ante for each function within a lateral mechanism of shared duty. The sense that roles of lesser seniority often hold the center of a business together can invigorate and inspire the greenest remote worker. Leadership’s commitment to recognizing and leveraging this ideological impact is the key to workers owning their own potential.

Remote meetings can do more harm to morale than good, especially when executed poorly. Now’s a good time for management to set — and adhere to — beginning and end times for every call or video meeting. Choices can also be made in advance of digital gatherings as to who is responsible for moving the meeting along and checking off agenda points.

Remote work done right eliminates the need for micromanagement. In some cases a team lead may consider appointing “accountability partners” to check in with each other and iron out any kinks. When we spend our work hours largely audienceless, a sense of ownership and solidarity becomes the glue to keep an undertaking in one piece.

Empathy, Engagement & The Human Stuff

Employee engagement is urgently needed by so many finding their feet in a physically dispersed workforce, so consistent updates, planning and reasonable optimism need to be communicated. Optional after-hours gestures ranging from virtual home tours and pet-sharing to Trivial Pursuit championships can breathe some life into proceedings.

That being said, lifting morale during what feels like “end times” isn’t something that can be forced, and remote show-and-tell isn't for everyone. Whatever your extracurricular scene, anyone can benefit from the “work family” offering substantive insight on how to heal and grow in the months and years ahead. Now is as good a time as any for companies to provide employees with telehealth sessions with mental health professionals.

Soon, our old ideas of life will be handed to us on a plate and we will need leaders, more than ever, who are good humans first and foremost. As the workforce inches along doing its level best with a tentative grasp of “what’s next,” those leaders might revisit what it even means to be productive. A little empathy is sure to go a long way.