These are strange times we’re living in. Your once bustling office is probably under lock and key, for the foreseeable future - and the team dispersed to the safety of their homes. Maybe remote working is something your company is used to… but chances are, you’re feeling a little nervous about these new measures.
Do you see visions of pyjamas, empty Dominos boxes, back-to-back Come Dine With Me, and cans of cheap knock-off lager when you closed your eyes? Then stop!
The reality is, the vast majority of your team isn’t doing the above (apart from the pyjama thing, maybe). You might not be able to see them, or peer inquiringly at their laptop screen, but studies show you can trust that they’re still working hard.
For your employees, there’s a lot of factors that - under normal circumstances - make home-working an appealing option. Saving money from not commuting, finding more time (25 minutes extra) for exercise, fewer distractions… in fact 79% of those polled stated “increased productivity/focus” as one of the upsides, along with 78% pointed to “less stress” and 91% to “better work/life balance”. There’s so many benefits that, in one study by Frances Holliss on home-working, only six of the 100+ interviewed said they would return to the office.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. The same study identified common issues like isolation, lack of boundaries between life and work, and self-discipline. Some of the problems can come from working too hard, despite many manager’s fears - as workday blurs into nighttime, and you never really ‘clock off’.
It also runs the risk of people feeling disconnected. The casual chit chat that fills up your day - when you first get in, or grab a coffee - can be a useful conduit to impromptu brainstorming. The goal is finding ways to mitigate all these potential pitfalls.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. “Of course employees love working from home - we all love lazing about on the sofa!”. But funnily enough, most studies show people are actually more productive when working remotely.
Part of that involves spending more time working - roughly 1.4 more days a month than office dwellers. They take longer breaks, but stay ‘on it’ for 10 minutes more per day - maybe because they’re losing less time on distractions!
A separate study found similar results - with the productivity of remote workers analysed for two years, to show a full day of productivity gained in comparison to their office-working coworkers. That seemed to come down to lateness/early finishes for those having to commute, and the office being a more distracting environment. Home-workers also took shorter breaks, were ‘off sick’ less, took less holiday… and saved the company almost $2000 per worker. Nice.
So people are actually more productive when working from home. All that’s left to worry about is ‘feeling’ like a time, and keeping the lines of communication open. Luckily, there’s a few ways to do that.
One method is making sure the ‘chit chat’ element of catching up isn’t neglected -at tech company InVision, one manager makes sure to ask his team about their upcoming plans or families. You can also make a habit of being reactive and responsive to other people’s work - grabbing a quick video chat to say ‘well done’ after a big project’s closed off, and to hear how it all went.
But there’s also things you shouldn’t do. Some business owners and managers have made the mistake of enforcing screen/mouse tracking, to be 100% sure their staff are working. Not only does that scream “I don’t trust you” (not a great company culture to foster), it also has been shown 39% of remote workers would just find a way to avoid working at all. Certainly not productive.
Right now, you might not have a choice. Your team has to work remotely. So it’s best to change the way you think about it: reflect on whether you actually trust your team (you should), if they’re being motivated to keep doing their best (they should), and whether working from home is really the slippery slope you think it is (it’s not).
Studies show it makes your team more productive, happier, and healthier - just make sure you’re checking in (not checking up) on them, and you’ll probably be A-OK.
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