by Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
How productive are remote workers? You might think that working from home would discourage or impede productivity, but an April 2021 study showed the opposite to be true: It found that the increase in remote work during the pandemic is expected to boost U.S. productivity by 5%, mostly by eliminating commuting time.
It’s likely to be a trend beyond the COVID era, too. A poll of more than 30,000 U.S. workers determined that 20% of full workdays will be from home after the pandemic is over, four times the rate before the virus hit.
Businesses are finding a number of benefits to facilitating remote work. They can save money on energy costs that come with running an office. And they can broaden the pool of talent from which to choose because they don’t have to limit themselves to local applicants.
But can employers help their workers become even more productive while working at home? It turns out, they can by taking a few simple steps.
Provide tech support
Tech support is one thing that’s easier to do in-house than remotely because you’ve got all the equipment at your disposal and an IT person (or persons) available to troubleshoot at an employee’s desk if needed.
These limitations make it all the more critical to provide proper tech support to remote workers, who may become frustrated if they can’t log on or if their computer isn’t able to handle the programs necessary to do the job.
Before your employees even start working from home, ensure that they have the necessary hardware, software, memory, and bandwidth to handle the tasks you’ll be assigning them. Doing so will increase their productivity, both by reducing downtime and increasing their confidence in you — and, as a result, their enthusiasm for the job.
Offer financial guidance and opportunities
Financial worries can be a big drain on productivity, so it’s important to engage with employees and ensure they know the kind of support and opportunities you provide for them.
Thoroughly and clearly explain retirement benefits and options, health insurance plans, financial incentives, and other programs you offer. In addition, make them aware of financial best practices and resources for budgeting, saving, and building credit.
Engaging with your employees on things like credit management and retirement savings can ease worries and boost their focus and productivity.
Provide positive feedback
More than 80% of U.S. employees say they don’t feel appreciated or rewarded, and the challenge only grows if they’re working from home: With less face time and personal contact, positive feedback is more important than ever.
Verbal praise is important, but tangible feedback can be even more effective. Providing promotion opportunities to those who perform well is one example. Bonuses, employee-of-the-week or -month certificates, and perks are others.
You may not be able to offer a prime parking space to a remote worker, but a free lunch or gift certificate will likely be appreciated.
Positive feedback — and clear, constructive communication in general — can boost morale and, with it, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and productivity.
Promote worktime flexibility
One of the big benefits of working from home is increased flexibility — as long as you promote it. Deadlines are part of most jobs, but if you can allow your employees to work when they’re most comfortable doing so, that’s a great way to bolster productivity.
Not only will their job satisfaction increase, but allowing them to work when they’re most focused and at the top of their game will help them get more work done (and faster) than on a more rigid schedule.
Open multiple communication channels
Since you’re not able to drop by workers’ desks, schedule roundtable meetings, or call them into your office, you’ll want to take advantage of a variety of alternatives to keep the channels of communication open.
Email, Slack, Zoom, text messages, and phone calls are just some of the methods you can employ. But be careful not to overwhelm your employees. Choose one platform as your primary method of communication, so they’ll know where they’re most likely to hear from you and be prepared to respond in the most timely manner possible.
After all, responsiveness increases productivity, too.
Work with your employees to eliminate distractions by creating a dedicated workspace that’s insulated, as much as possible, from things that might draw their attention away from work. Your company might even spring for a pair of noise-canceling headphones if that would help them tune out noise around the house.
Remote work and productive work can, and often do, go hand-in-hand. As an employer, it behooves you to encourage the means that naturally make workers more productive, and find other methods that enhance their output. Focus, flexibility, feedback, and financial support are just some of the ways you can do so.