The pandemic wages on. Companies across the globe have had to seriously retool how they function within the new world order or face a most uncertain future. Only those businesses that have made the necessary adjustments are working with any semblance of efficiency and profitability.
Although many businesses have been forced to rethink how they function, one thing they very quickly learned was that, once the adjustments were made, operations didn't actually crumble at their feet, and it was possible to continue on, unabated.
But even though a company was able to carry on in this new landscape, new issues began to creep into play. One such issue was keeping the staff productive while they work remotely.
When employees work within the confines of the company building, they fall under the jurisdiction of obvious mandates: they work from 9-5 (or whatever set hours are defined by policy), take specific length breaks at specified times, and must report to those above them when needed. Of course, there are always other rules to take into consideration, but you get the idea.
Working from home is a different story altogether - there's a certain level of freedom that comes with the territory. The big question is, does that freedom translate to continued productivity, or does it hamper an employee's ability to function within the expected standards?
Let's take a look at a few ways you can help your staff be as productive remotely as they are when they work on site. You can trust that these tips work, as they’ve worked for us over at BairesDev for more than a decade.
Give them freedom
If there's one thing that puts a wrench in productivity, it's an unhappy staff. You must remember that life has become exponentially more challenging for everyone. Parents are having to deal with children coping with distance learning and being with family 24/7. That's a lot of stress.
So when you tell management to crack down on staff in ways that might strip away what little benefit might come with working from home, you wind up with a mostly dissatisfied staff on your hands.
One thing you can do that will go a long way is to give those employees the freedom to work at their own pace. Whether they're getting the work done from 9-5 or from 10-3 and 5-9, so long as they're producing the expected results (and doing so in a timely manner), you should allow it. When you do this, your staff will show their appreciation by being even more productive than they were when working on campus.
Check-in, without checking in
The last thing you want your staff to think is that you're babysitting them. They are adults, after all. You hired them (or you used outsourcing software development services), so you should be able to put your complete trust in them, right?
Indeed, you should.
But there are deadlines to meet, and you need to be apprised if those staff members are able to make those deadlines. How do you do that without acting as though you're looming over their shoulders, making sure to crack a metaphorical whip?
You could employ a tool like Slack to keep ongoing communication with your teams. As they communicate with one another, you would be able to view those project discussions without having to behave like a babysitter.
Or you could deploy a project management tool that allows employees to update their progress with a project. With such a tool you could always be in the know as to how productive your staff is. And when they know you know, they'll take working from home seriously.
Give them the right tools
When you sent your employees to work from home, did you leave them to their own devices, assuming they had everything they needed to get the job done from home? Or did you provide them with everything necessary to be productive? Laptops, printers, mobile phones—whatever it takes to ease the transition and not require them to spend their hard-earned wages on the technology they might not otherwise purchase.
If you go out of your way to provide your staff with the right tools to get the job done in their homes, they'll be far more likely to actually get those jobs done. You don't want staff relying on underpowered, insecure hardware to work with large amounts of proprietary data.
Besides, you wouldn't expect your staff to use their own equipment when working in the office, right? So why would you expect (especially during a pandemic) those same people to use their own technology to do the same job from home? You shouldn't.
What should you do? You either send the machines they use in their office home with them (which could cause a networking nightmare), or you purchase new laptops (and anything else necessary) for them to use. This will go a long way to not only help your staff work productively but to ensure those employees know you have their backs when they count on you the most.
Hold company-wide zoom meetings
One issue you don't want to face is the feeling of disconnectedness that can come with an entire staff working apart. Eventually, they could start feeling as though they don't belong. That feeling could lead to a serious dip in productivity.
How do you prevent that? One major thing you can do is hold (mandatory) company-wide zoom meetings to help retain that sense of community. Thing is - you don’t want those meetings to be anything but business-only. Inject a little fun into them. Hold contests, make sure to allow the staff to speak about what's happening in their lives. Engage, don't lecture. Have guest speakers join—maybe even entertainment.
I once worked with a company whose CEO loved to play guitar. He'd start every meeting by playing something new he wrote. It was wonderful and made everyone excited about the meetings. He was warm, welcoming, and never once made those meetings about the bottom line or profit margins. Instead, he held meetings that were about the employees. He cared. And all of that translated into seriously dedicated and productive employees.
There's no reason why you can't do the same with Zoom.
Whether you're an outsourced software development, a marketing firm, a corporate HQ for a massive retail chain, or an industrial hardware machining factory, you can do this. No matter how many staff members you've had to send into remote offices, with the right approach, you can make them as productive as they would be in cubicles and offices.
Malcom Ridgers, tech expert, BairesDev