Remote worker productivity

RECENTLY, during the CEO-Africa Virtual Roundtable Conference on “Working from Home”, the issue of managing productivity remotely featured very prominently. Given the current Covid-19 pandemic, work styles have dramatically changed and many employees are working from home or from remote locations.

Robert Mandeya

Although remote working is not a new phenomenon, this situation was suddenly foisted upon us by the crisis and no one anticipated the many challenges that come with the “new normal” of remote working. As many of us gradually come to terms with the many unforeseen challenges, it became clear from the Virtual Round Table conversation that there are several issues to look into in this new work environment.

Need for systems

From the Virtual Roundtable Conference, which was presided over by three panelists with expertise from various backgrounds, it was clear that there was a need for organisations to introduce systems to measure employee productivity.

Although there were sentiments to suggest employees working from home or remote locations are more productive than those working in office, it was apparent that participants had no evidence to support their assertions. But how do you know if your remote employees is being productive?

Keeping employees engaged

The best way to keep employees engaged is to frequently discuss the value of productivity and getting deep work accomplished through the day. This can help employees feel that their work was meaningful and have a sense of accomplishment. Keeping employees engaged can be done by organising tasks that have a clearly defined start, middle and end points. If remote staff have clear deliverables, it is easy to judge their output volume and quality. However, if remote staffs are under-performing, you have a management issue, and no piece of technology is going to solve it.

Using the Trello tool

During conference, an expert from an information technology company recommended the use of the Trello tool. It is a helpful tool for keeping employees accountable and engaged.

The online Trello board shows what each employee is working on, so there is complete transparency in the volume of work getting done. Employees are able to fulfill diverse functions remotely in business such as: acquisition analysis, inbound lead processing, web marketing, invoice processing, business analysis, and bookkeeping.

Using activity monitoring software

Methods of measuring the productivity of remote staff include the use of activity-monitoring software which tracks mouse movements and keyboard strikes. This is the baseline data, which some organisations are using to track employee activity level. The software enables management to monitor a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) for each function of the business whereby analysts would record on a custom-built Google sheet. Depending on the function, the system will have 5 to10 KPIs for each team member which monitor their performance against set goals.

Measuring productivity

There are also different ways executives can monitor productivity remotely. Some of these methods include use of a timer by every single employer.
Secondly, there is a method which requires every employee to send a report to the senior executive manager every day. The senior executive will then send these reports to the pertinent manager by the end of each week. This way, managers can follow up with the employees regarding the goals for the department and the strategies that are being implemented weekly.

Another approach involves a situation where each team uses separate software for productivity. For instance, product developers use JIRA, whereas the marketing teams use Asana. This would help managers to supervise the daily tasks of the employees according to each separate project.

If you have an understanding of what is expected and know how you are measuring success with the chosen KPIs, it really then comes down to paying for results as opposed to time. For example, if you have a marketing team working remotely throughout a given month, you will have to outline certain deliverables and KPIs as benchmarks for meeting expectations.

For example, how many influencers we are working with and how many new users we have acquired that month. If those numbers are lacking, something is off, or someone is not doing their job well.

I have a last tip for measuring remote worker productivity. You should either understand the task or job you need to be completed, or get some guidance on what the job entails. This way you can understand what the performance should look like, how many hours a job should take and so on. The take-away from the CEO-Africa Round Table Virtual conference was that measuring the productivity of employees working from home or remotely is critical. But you have to do it in a way that is meaningful to the business and makes employees feel good about it.

However, we also noted the challenges that come with the implementation of this new normal of doing things. It was clear executives need to up-skill their digital skills and understand the risks that come with digital applications.

Mandeya is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate education trainer and management consultant. — robert@lird.co.zw/ or info@lird.co.zw, Facebook: @lirdzim and +263 719 466 925

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