As industries across the board are navigating the transition to remote and asynchronous work, we turn again to the perpetual question: are employees less efficient working from home? And if the answer is yes, how can employee efficiency be improved in 2020?
The 40-hour workweek went out the window long before a global pandemic reshaped our working landscape. Employees had been exceeding normal working hours in the office, and it’s safe to say that the lines between our personal and professional lives are increasingly blurring as WFH becomes the new standard. We're finding ourselves checking in on our work computer at all hours of the day and night. Be honest, how many times have you caught yourself checking your Slack (or your company’s equivalent communication platform) on your cell phone “after hours” over the past week?
So, we’re putting in more hours “online” but what does that mean in terms of our productivity and quality of work? Increasing hours worked does not correspond to increased efficiency, so let’s find out how to improve efficiency at work — when the ‘office’ is suddenly the cramped corner of our laundry room.
The top 7 ways to improve workplace productivity
1. Delegate tasks to the right people
This might seem obvious; a manager needs to delegate. But it’s often easier said than done, especially in a remote work setting. Before kicking off a project open-endedly, take some time to think through who would be the best fit for the task at hand.
A baseline understanding of your team members’ strengths and communication styles is crucial to thoughtful delegation. You can’t expect everyone to be good at everything. Explain to your team members why you’re passing them a task, instead of just assigning it off to them. By taking the extra 2 minutes to send a message like, “Hey Bill— wanted to let you know I’m handing this task over to you because you’ve worked closely with XYZ in the past and I know you’re great at XYZ.” This little bit of extra context will do wonders for encouraging employees to increase their productivity and get projects through the door faster.
2. Clarify goals and priorities
Without clear expectations in place, your employees can’t be expected to work efficiently. If there is any sort of ambiguity around goals or prioritization of projects people simply won’t feel the motivation to work as productively as they otherwise would. The goals that you do set for your teams should be well researched and attainable. If a goal doesn’t feel achievable for your team, they won’t see any reason to work towards it.
Once you’ve set out your goals, utilize a project management tool to track progress and set milestones for your team. Marking achievements along the way (even the small stuff!) will regularly encourage and improve team efficiency.
3. Focus on effective communication
If there was any question about this before, the work landscape in 2020 has clarified the answer: communication is officially key.
We’re all on the same page that investing in a team communication platform such as a Slack or a Teams is a must-have rather than a nice-to-have in a remote work environment. But finding a way to manage communication, and avoid messaging overload, isn’t always simple. The trick here is to find a way to keep track of what your team members are up to while incorporating the water-cooler banter that everyone is missing.
The fact that communication is more important than ever is not a free pass however to put 7 extra meetings on everyone's calendars. Virtual meetings present their own sets of challenges; audit your existing meetings, share knowledge before and after a meeting, and make a habit of recording all meetings to share with folks on the team that couldn’t make it.
Psst — check out these 4 tips to improve communication in remote teams!
4. Create a flexible environment
One of the absolute best ways to encourage employees to perform efficiently in their roles is by giving them a reason to do so. Part of that means creating a culture that your employees love and want to be a part of. Right now, that means a heightened sense of flexibility and understanding.
Flexible hours and generous PTO is a huge incentivizer. Show that you understand, juggling work and kids and a global pandemic isn't easy for any of us. By not only offering, but encouraging your team to take time for themselves you’ll cultivate a healthy environment where people will do their best work when they are online.
Here’s how we document something like our flexible PTO policy in Guru to keep all of our teams on the same page:
5. Efficiently onboard new hires
Investment in training and development is key to promoting long term productivity in the workplace. Of course, ramping up in a new job takes time and a lot of learning will inevitably happen on the fly, but laying a strong onboarding process foundation will help your teams acclimate and improve their on-the-job efficiency much faster.
Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new hire retention by 82% and overall productivity by over 70%. It’s mutually beneficial to cut the cost of training a new employee, this will reduce turnover expenses and set up your new hires for long term success.
6. Invest in company-wide knowledge management
Utilizing an company-wide knowledge management tool is especially important when a physical “office space” is off the table. We can no longer rely on shoulder taps or room polls to find the information that we need, so ensuring that your team has the answers to the questions they need to even do their jobs in the first place, not to mention effectively, is a top priority. This knowledge can be anything from ‘how to set up your WFH office space’ to ‘new product feature breakdowns’ but regardless of the technicality of the question, your employees need a reliable source of information to access to the answers to productively go about their work. This means investing in and sustaining a knowledge base that houses all of your company’s internal knowledge.
Of companies that self-describe as having knowledge-driven cultures:
Investment in a knowledge base that is centralized, verified by subject matter experts, and integrated with your existing tech stack will keep your whole team aligned and productive, even if they’re working in different time zones.
A knowledge management solution is useless if it’s not actually being utilized by your teams. An active knowledge base requires an intuitive tool that integrates into workflows and is useful for your team’s everyday needs.
Find out how the teams over at Zoom efficiently adopted Guru as their knowledge base solution:
7. Be kind to yourself and your teams!
This has been a trying year for everyone. A lot has changed both in our professional landscape and personal lives. Workplace efficiency is inevitably going to present itself differently these days.
Aside from all of the other tips and tricks, be generous and understanding and check in with the people you work alongside. Productivity isn’t going to ramp back up overnight, but slowly we’re building out the tools and practices to make work work again.