How to Overcome the Productivity Barriers of Working From Home by Ashley Kimler

As many as 16 million U.S. knowledge workers worked remotely as of March, 2020 (talk about disruption).

Some employees will say that working from home was always their dream. For others, the remote life is something they never planned for. As a consequence, the transition from the office to the home office can be jarring -- and it can kill productivity.

Studies have shown that remote workers are, in general, more productive. But everyone is different. For those who have grown accustomed to working in the office (and enjoyed it), getting into a stride outside the office can be tricky. 

This, of course, has consequences for your business at large. And with 78% of business leaders concerned that remote working will decrease productivity and performance, there are challenges to overcome. 

In this article, I’ll be taking a look at different ways you can help your team overcome productivity barriers while working from home. So, let’s read on.

 

Use Tools (& Help Your Team With The Onboarding Process) 

In 2020, we now have the tech to make sure our teams can work efficiently from home. Whereas, 20 years ago, the global response would have been far less capable. Frankly, we didn’t have the digital technologies it takes to stay productive. Today, we have access to tools to solve every remote working challenge employees might face. 

Here is a quick checklist of the types of tools we should give our teams access to:

Tools and apps essentially help your team stay connected while simultaneously boosting their productivity levels. However, it’s really important that you work alongside them to ensure they get to grips with each tool. Indeed, 40% of telehealth encounters reported technical challenges, and the last thing you need is new software slowing your operations down. 

For instance, if a team member is struggling to understand a particular tool and its functionalities, you could create a video using a tool like Loom where you demonstrate how it’s used. 

 

Centralize Knowledge 

Every day employees can spend up to 2.5 hours tracking down information. This reduces productivity, making it crucial that you create a centralized repository or dashboard where information is stored, organized, and shared. It should also have a powerful search tool. 

From here, your team can quickly access the documents and files that enable them to do their jobs throughout the day. To go a step further, you could make building the knowledge base an all-around team effort that requires input from members across all of your departments. 

 

Keep Morale High

Employee morale is key to success in any business, with highly engaged business units resulting in 21% greater profitability. But keeping spirits up is especially tough when your team is working remotely. Some employees may suffer from a lack of contact and the loss of the social aspect that comes from working in an office. This can lead to a loss of morale and a feeling of isolation. And when morale dips, so can productivity. 

For example, you could organize and schedule regular team calls where you discuss things other than work. These could be weekly or bi-weekly and should be thought of like a virtual coffee meet-up. 

Make sure to encourage a casual approach to the conversation. For instance, set the tone by conversing with GIFs and demonstrating that there’s no need to take everything seriously all the time, provided work gets done. 

 

Be There For Your Team - Provide Steady Emotional Support

Continuing on from the above point, it’s essential that any team member who is having real difficulties with their emotions and overall mental health now that they’re working remotely is able to connect with you. 

In a fully remote operation, you may need to be available more than you would in the office, especially at the beginning. As well as employing video conferencing tools, you should also use instant messaging apps that allow your team to reach out to you there and then. When doing this, it’s important that you are upbeat and set the tone for your virtual office.

Self-care is another key to success in remote teams and it should be encouraged. You should promote exercise, eating healthy and overall well-being. Through this, you will provide your team with excellent emotional support and also help avoid paid sick-leave days, which cost employers $160 billion annually. 

 

Ask For Employee Feedback 

It could be the case that a team member is struggling to be productive for a reason currently unknown to you. If this is the case, the easiest way to find out what’s preventing them from getting ahead is to ask for feedback. You can carry out regular 1:1 meetings with each team member to gain valuable insights into their working process and learn more about what may be holding them back. 

That said, it may also be the case that a team member is struggling to be productive for a reason that’s even unknown to them. During your conversation, you may uncover pain points that the two of you can fix together. 

You could also:

  • Conduct regular surveys

  • Encourage employees to give and ask for feedback directly

  • Consider offering incentives for ideas that improve efficiency

  • Offer online feedback forms

 

Encourage Your Team to Dress for Success

Now that your team is working from home, it can be very tempting for them to go the whole day wearing sweatpants or even pajamas. However, this can set the wrong tone. Research has shown that, as long as an employee is wearing something work-related, they will get more work done. 

This doesn’t mean your team has to wear something formal. As long as what they’re wearing reminds them of work and success more than it reminds them of spending the day relaxing at home, it will improve the quality and efficiency of their work. 

 

Wrapping-Up 

While remote working offers a huge amount of benefits to both the employee and the employer, a dip in productivity will occur if your remote team isn’t able to overcome productivity barriers. 

Use the tips in this article to improve connectivity, morale and productivity. Make sure to create time for your team so that they can reach out to you when needed, ask for regular feedback and use tools for work, as well as virtual team-building exercises. 

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Ashley Kimler is the founder of CopyNoise. She's been working remotely in the tech space since 2014. Interested in getting her advice on your blog? She's always looking for the opportunity to share her perspective with new communities! Follow @ashleykimler on Twitter to see what's new.