When working remotely, the focus really is on the output rather than the input of your work. Hackman (2002) established that remote teams could provide organisations with more diverse knowledge overall, and that time zones, cultural and locations is no longer an interference for productivity, but rather a catalyst for it. A study carried out by Cardiff University back in 2017 found that more than a third (39%) of people who mostly work from home often work additional hours to complete their tasks, compared with less than a quarter (24%) of those in fixed workplaces.
Remote workers also consider themselves as more productive when working remotely compared to being in an office. Working remotely can provide a less-distracting environment for individuals, less commuting and travelling time which results in more time to focus on the job at hand. Research by CanadaLife found that remote workers regard themselves as more productive: home workers rated their productivity at 7.7 out of 10 compared to those working in open-plan offices, who ranked their productivity at an average of 6.5 out of 10.
What are the main considerations for productivity when working remotely?
Communication & Collaboration
Working remotely is not a substitute for team communication and collaboration. If anything teams should do so often and proactively, and now that the tide is turning in the way we work, we have a plethora of technologies to support us in these initiatives.
Last year I spent a full year researching remote teams and environments. I found that communication was found to contribute to internal productivity; however, the frequency and timing of contact influenced this. High satisfaction was found where employees clearly understood how often and when they should communicate. Research showed that several didn't fully understand how often and when they should talk with their team. Teams that expressed more frequently, both for personal and professional reasons had higher satisfaction overall and higher productivity levels.
Surprisingly, there can be a lot of ‘digital- noise’ when working remotely. Slack channels, update-emails can lead to an overwhelming amount of information. Managers of remote teams need to clearly communicate relevant updates and announcements from the organisation that are relevant to the unit itself contribute more to team success and productivity.
Like any team, regardless of where in the world they are based. KPI’s and goal setting is fundamental in shaping the success and results of the team. Ensuring remote team meetings that focus on progress, plans, and problems. On an organisational level, it’s essential individuals and groups are set up for success, and the processes are in place to allow individuals to update on projects, what is coming next, and any blockers that might be slowing them down.
Much of the research investigating productivity levels when working remotely are incredibly high. All positive, right? Nope, we need to consider the other challenges that arise from high productivity levels- individually overworking themselves. Research carried out by Cardiff University in 2017 found that More than a third (39%) of people who mostly work from home often work additional hours to complete their tasks, compared with less than a quarter (24%) of those in fixed workplaces. As organisations, we need to set expectations with remote teams, as managers of remote teams we need to have a pulse on how our remote team members are managing their workload and as individuals, we need to take responsibility and create boundaries between work & play.
Working in a virtually dispersed environment requires a high level of accountability mixed with a full powered trust battery. Holding your employees accountable and trusting them to deliver the output of their work. On a personal level, it’s holding yourself accountable to your productivity levels and striking that balance between switching on and switching off from your work.
About the Authour: Shauna Moran is a remote enthusiast and researcher, she is also the founder of Operate Remote. Operate Remote works with organisations and individuals to maximise their opportunities and overcome their challenges when it comes to remote working. Shauna works with businesses to implement and maintain an effective and positive remote working model.
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