Managing Productivity and Efficiency In Work From Home Environments

Improvements in technology have allowed for more remote work opportunities. While remote work comes with its perks, it also causes a lot of distractions and productivity concerns. 

Luckily there are tips and tricks that remote workers, remote managers, and flexible businesses can employ to keep remote team productivity and efficiency high even in a remote work environment. 

Managing Workers in Home Environments

There are many reasons why your workers may want to work from home. This may include more flexibility, cost savings, employee efficiency, and stress management. There are benefits to allowing remote workers too. You may want your office workers to work from their homes, or you may only be hiring remote employees. 

Regardless of why you’re going this route, the home environment comes with many advantages and disadvantages. While your home makes it extremely convenient to roll out of bed and clock in, this means that work from home employees might also need to contend with distractions. 

Employees with kids, animals or regular visitors might find that they are coming and going from their desks too often. Other employees might not have the space or set up to work from home properly or adjusted work hours. This may require some flexibility on your part. 

Employee Tracking for Better Remote Work

Employee productivity monitoring is essential to keep an eye on your remote workforce. Without any type of productivity monitoring tool, remote managers would have no idea if their remote team is even working

So how does remote employee tracking work? 

Employee tracking is done with monitoring software, which can be installed remotely or on the computer itself by the remote worker. When operational, the software will track which tasks the employee is working on, attendance, applications used, websites visited, data uploaded/downloaded, communication logs, and keystrokes. 

Connected company networks will be able to analyze, actively monitor, and audit the records of tracked employees from a remote console. Therefore, you can see what your employees are doing and how efficiently they are doing it even if they are working out of the office. 

Metrics to Track for Improved Productivity and Efficiency

We’ve talked about how not to fall into the productivity trap, which is only analyzing productivity and thinking that your company is healthy or unhealthy. While measuring productivity and efficiency is important, it should only be considered in conjunction with other factors, such as employee turnover, organizational health, and project status. 

Here are metrics to look for when trying to manage productivity and efficiency, especially for work from home organizations:

Organizational Health

Overall organizational health is one of the most important measures of success, especially in remote teams. If your organization is struggling to expend its resources, allocate resources (personnel and time) for projects, fall behind on projects, or experience significant disruptions, then you’ll want to reconsider your organizational health strategy and perform an assessment. If there is an issue with your organizational health and you are only looking at productivity metrics, then you could be missing critical productivity hindrances. 

Organizational health can be measured by positive ROI metrics, employee satisfaction, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and project success metrics. If your projects are failing, then you could need to dive into why to establish workflow errors, product issues, or issues within your organization’s policy. By addressing these, you can improve workflows and productivity. 

Use employee surveys, customer surveys, workplace productivity software, time tracking metrics, and red flags in the budget to assess organizational health. 

Task Completion

Task completion is a basic measurement of productivity, but it doesn’t tell you much without a broader understanding of the context. Task completion involves:

  • The employee who completed the task
  • The priority of the task
  • The due date and/or timeliness of completion
  • Whether the employee had the right tools to complete the task successfully
  • Complexity

If an employee completes a task on time, then you can identify whether the task was easy or complex, was important or not important, and so on to determine success. 

Keep in mind that if you are tracking employees with hundreds of hours and tasks to complete, start a categorization process so that you understand which functions the tasks fall under. 

Try to tally up the number of tasks per function to find an average and percentage. If your employees are doing 50% of their tasks on administrative work, ask yourself if that is necessary and then ask how you can improve that. 

Project Time Estimates

Project timeliness and estimates are a great way to measure and improve productivity and efficiency. Sometimes poor estimates can have a significant impact on productivity and efficiency. And this makes logical sense. 

If you have a project that is estimated to only take 1 week, but you have 2 weeks’ worth of work, then this will put a strain on the staff. If the project didn’t need to be rushed, then it could end up taking longer than 2 weeks, or what it would have taken if the estimate was accurate. 

Managing client expectations has a lot to do with time estimates. If you explain the process or deliver parts to the client so that they see progress, then they may be less worried about getting everything they asked for in a rushed time period. 

There might also be the case where your employees are practicing poor time management, which messes up time estimates.

Company Culture

Company culture is another important factor when it comes to productivity and efficiency. If you have employees that are happy to be there and understand their roles, then they are more likely to be able to sit down and do their work effectively. This is unfortunately the opposite of companies that are disorganized, going through routine transitions, or have a poor company culture. 

These things can be disruptive and can negatively impact the culture, causing higher turnover and negative cultural cliques. Work hard to address issues within company culture before it becomes worse. You can see issues associated with company culture through productivity red flags in your tracking software. If your employees aren’t taking tracking seriously or are routinely bad-mouthing certain coworkers in their messenger, then you may want to sit down and discuss positive reinforcement for higher productivity.

You may find that your employees are actually stressed with their home environment and it’s bleeding over into your company culture. Be mindful of this and discuss with them the ways that they can improve their home health. You may find that addressing company culture creates a more positive work environment, allowing your employee performance to improve and have a better employee experience.

Relevant Attendance

Remote workers aren’t in your office, so you will need to manage timesheets and attendance. This is an extremely helpful aspect of remote productivity and efficiency because you can find out when your remote team is working, the hours/days they work, and how much they are getting done in a given day. Without these metrics, then you will have no idea how efficient your team member is. They may have completed 10 important tasks, but you have no indication of how long it took to complete them.

Use your employee monitoring software to manage your remote attendance, hours worked, and projects being worked on so that you know how efficient your team is and areas for improvement. This is particularly helpful for employees who get constantly pulled away while at home. Perhaps this might help them set boundaries when it comes to babysitting their kids or getting their dog out to play. If you require certain hours or your employees to work at certain times, then you may find that your attendance and efficiency improve.

Communication Overhead

Lastly, we have communication overhead. This refers to the amount of communication that a company is required to do to complete a task or project. If it takes too long and requires extensive conversations, either in person or over a messenger, then you could be paying for your employees to talk too much. 

Communication overhead is very common in enterprises because there are a lot of working parts. So, it can be hard to differentiate between necessary communication and too much. 

Therefore, use your employee monitoring software to investigate this. Look into their communication logs, the hours tracked communicating, and compare them. More often than not, your employees won’t be actively tracking communication, even when their communication software like Slack registers multiple hours of communication. Discuss the reasons why this communication is happening and try to find ways to improve upon it.

Managing Productivity and Efficiency With Workers in Home Environments and Hybrid Work

All in all, it can be difficult to manage productivity when it comes to a home work environment. However, by using remote tracking and asking the right questions, you can manage expectations properly and set your employees up for success. 

Managing working remotely is a lot easier when you have employee tracking software. Without this software, you would only be able to go off what your employees say and any data the software they are using is telling you (not much). 

With remote tracking software, you can also set expectations between the workers and yourself. Your workers might appreciate knowing that they have to hit 7 hours in a day or get a certain number of tasks done. With these clear expectations, you may find that your employees are working smarter and more efficiently than ever before!

By SoftActivity Team.

May 30th, 2022