Anecdotal evidence suggests that shifting to remote work is a boon for productivity, with some remote workers reporting that they are more productive working from home as opposed to in the office. Recent research, however, shows that the opposite might be true, especially in long-term work-from-home setups. A study conducted by software firm Names & Faces on remote work productivity found that prolonged remote work could eventually result in dips in productivity.
Much of this productivity dip can be attributed to reduced visibility, with 67% of the remote employees polled by Names & Faces admitting to ‘feeling invisible at work’. And with work-from-home arrangements likely to continue, it’ll become more difficult to build and maintain the kind of helpful relationships (collectively called social capital by Names & Faces co-founder Richard Arscott) that will make remote workers feel ‘seen’ at work.
This is why managers and employers need to instil, keep, and cultivate a high-performance mindset amongst your remote team, as it’s the only way to counter possible reductions in productivity. To do so, consider the three suggestions below:
Create social capital
Social capital helps your employees feel part of and accountable to a group. As a result, they are more likely to give their best at work, knowing that they are highly visible, and that their performance is being recognised. That said, creating social capital in remote settings can be tricky, but certainly possible, as we discussed previously on How to Connect with People When You’re Remote.
Central to it is scheduling informal check-ins and connecting with your team on a personal level. Ask them how they’re doing, then encourage them to share details about their private life. Make sure to take notes and bring some of them up in the next check-in. They’ll appreciate that you remembered those details, and that will go a long way in creating a comfort level first, and ultimately, a bond based on trust. The goodwill you’ll create will translate to staff willing to give their best.
Support your team through stressful times
Working from home can be very stressful. Private healthcare provider Bupa, in fact, has seen a 300% uptick in calls to its health and wellbeing advice line, while its virtual consultations for mental health are fully booked regularly. And that’s to be expected, as disrupted sleep, dysphoria (generalised unease), and lack of social escape are just some of the unique challenges remote workers must deal with. This stress, in turn, can adversely affect performance, and even result in an increase in sick days.
Needless to say, you’ll need to provide your team with the support they need. A good start would be to teach your staff simple ways to deal with stress. One such way is through breathing exercises, which Pain Free Working describes as an easy way to release tension, and by extension, relieve stress. Two exercises you can easily teach are deep breathing, where you take five deep breaths in succession, and the 4-7-8 breathing technique, in which you inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds.
But of course, you’ll also need to institutionalise a comprehensive wellness program that will ensure both the mental and physical health of your team. A healthier team, in turn, can focus on their tasks better, and perform optimally during work hours.
Emphasise a shared purpose
A CEO Today article on the traits of a high performing remote team details the pillars of a high performing remote team. Most notable (apart from connecting with your employees) is an understanding that the team aren’t operating as disparate individuals with their own agendas, but rather as a team working in concert to ‘achieve their shared strategic objectives’. Without an understanding of these objectives, your team will likely focus on activities to reach their own, individual goals — to the detriment of the team’s collective good.
As such, you’ll need to identify the team’s shared ‘why’, then clarify the needs not only of clients, but also of other stakeholders. Just as important, ask your team what they need from you as their leader. Better yet, involve everyone in finding solutions to whatever problems that may arise. In this way, you create both a sense of urgency and a feeling of belonging that will help engage your team into performing at their best.
Just because performance tends to decline in long-term work-from-home setups doesn’t mean they don’t necessarily work. Oftentimes, their success hinges on management establishing a strong culture that emphasises teamwork and optimum performance. The three points above will help you build such a culture, and make the most of remote work in the process.
Submitted by Yanni Cole for highgrowth.com
"...prolonged remote work could eventually result in dips in productivity."