remote work

Remote work is on the rise, and more people are working remotely now than at any point in history.

According to statistics compiled by Hubspot:

  • The number of people working remotely at least once a week has grown by 400 percent since 2010.
  • At least 4.7 million employees in the U.S. work from home at least half the week.
  • 18 percent of executives work remotely than they work on site.
  • 30 percent of people work for an organization that is fully remote.
  • 46 percent of C-suite members work remotely at least on a part-time basis.

The above statistics are even further amplified by the state of things in the world right now. At the time of writing this, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries of the world are on lockdown and organizations are forced to carry out the majority of their activities offline.

If you’re a startup and most of your employees have to work from home, how do you ensure peak productivity? Below are six ideas for you:

  1. Leverage Remote Software and Technology to Enhance Your Organization’s Productivity

Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

This Lincoln quote not only demonstrates how important it is to have the right tools for your work, but it is as true today as it was when Lincoln said it.

At a time like this when your organization can only work remotely, it is important to realize that the manual processes you’ve always relied on won’t work; instead, you have to take advantage of remote tools to ensure your organization continues to run smoothly — both for collaboration and communication.

So carefully consider the needs of your startup and decide on the remote tools you’ll need to collaborate.

  1. Make Video Communication a Priority

It can sometimes feel as if employees’ passion for projects they’re working on remotely isn’t the same as it was while they had to be coming to the office. This is often true due to the mostly impersonal nature of a lot of remote work setups.

In a physical office, a lot of projects are commenced after a physical meeting between members of the team that will be handling the project; members feel physically involved in the decision to start the project and the direction it will take, and it is easy for the project leader to assess emotions and physical reactions to ideas relating to a project before its commencement. This is often difficult with remote work, especially where most communication has been relegated to online chat and discussions via project management apps or email.

Introducing video conferencing where everybody is required to come online and discuss what they think before starting major projects is important; not only does this allow you to get a true feel of what each employee wants (beyond what is possible via chat or other text communication), but employees feel more involved and will as a result be more committed.

Zoom, Facetime, and Skype are widely regarded as some of the best free video chat apps, and you could get started with any of them.

  1. Introduce a Social Component

Research shows that working from home and in front of the computer contributes to loneliness, a feeling of emptiness, and a decrease in happiness levels.

This makes sense because we are not designed to sit at home and work in front of a computer all day; humans are social creatures, and it is important to realize that many of your employees aren’t going to be too pleased with working alone from home without much interaction with their peers.

For the sake of the health and productivity of your employees, it is important to introduce social components that allow them to interact and socialize with members of their team and the rest of the organization while working remotely.

You can do this by creating opportunities for virtual social interaction, hosting regular “coffee hours,” introducing the occasional group video chats, and introducing the use of discussion boards to allow members to socialize every once in a while.

  1. Focus on Milestones and Progress, Not Time

We live in a world where too much emphasis is placed on appearing to work rather than working, and a lot of employees feel pressure to prove that they’re working; a study by LogMeIn found the following:

  • 46 percent of remote employees feel pressured to demonstrate that they are working
  • 36 percent of remote workers feel pressured to appear more responsive when responding to emails
  • 23 percent of remote workers feel pressured to work more hours

For you as a startup, it is important to realize that what really matters isn’t how long it feels as if your employees are working but actually what they are doing. Set milestones for your employees and emphasize their progress towards these milestones instead of actually counting hours in front of the computer.

  1. Track the Performance of Your Employees

You only know whether an employee is performing or not when you track their performance. If you’ve been tracking employee performance before you are forced to go remote, then you’ll have a yardstick by which you can compare progress.

It is important to realize that performance tracking is entirely different from time tracking. Performance tracking focuses on how employees are faring at meeting targets and how long it is taking them to meet these targets; when you set goals and milestones how long is it taking the average employee to reach these goals? If these goals aren’t being met on time, what could be preventing employees from reaching them?

While most project management software allow you to track employee performance, it is important to be able to read the finer details; how does performance compare for different types of projects and what is causing the variations? Also, regularly check in with employees to see how you can help them perform better at their work and improve their productivity without appearing to be monitoring them 24/7.

  1. Emphasize Schedule and Structure

One of the major things that is easily noticeable in an office environment is the structure put in place and the schedule of things. It is important to ensure that this remains in place even as your employees move towards working remotely.

Whether it is time for meetings and time to work on other key aspects of your projects, you want to create a structure and schedule and ensure that people are actually sticking to them.