A number of concerns may surround working in a remote environment, but one that typically plagues employers, is ‘Will my employees get as much done?’ and ‘How will I measure productivity?’. We explore the effect of remote working on productivity, the digital workplace, and how you can measure productivity in a remote environment.
- Remote working appears to have a positive impact on productivity.
- There are a number of techniques you can implement to measure and visualise productivity in your organisation, from self-efficacy assessments to corporate analytics dashboards.
- Investing in employee health, wellbeing and quality of life has positive effects on productivity by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism.
It is natural to question whether your employees will be as productive, complete as many actions within a given time, when working remotely. The digital workplace is an environment of less observation and less social interaction, which could be predicted to be distracting and draining, however this is not necessarily the case.
Productivity: Impaired or Improved?
Reassuringly, despite potential scepticism, the vast majority of research corroborates that working from home/working from anywhere (WFH/WFA) has a positive impact on productivity.
It has been seen in research by Bloom et al (2015) that the movement from in-office working to remote working led to a 13% increase in employee productivity. This is believed to be due to a number of productivity enhancing mechanisms, such as reduced commute time, fewer work breaks, fewer sick days and an overall quieter work environment.
In addition to the productivity advantage, wider benefits have also been observed from WFH, including improved work satisfaction, higher attitudinal outcomes and a 50% decrease in the rate of attrition. However, there are differences observed across different categories of firms, with negative effects being most likely for smaller firms who do not take up R&D activities.
At this current time, a large proportion of WFH employees have not self-selected to be as such and are also managing the worry and disturbances of a pandemic. Therefore, productivity may not increase to the levels previously researched. However, looking forwards, research suggests that employee productivity can rise to 22% when employees learn what works for them between remaining WFH or returning to office.
The Digital Workplace
Over the last two decades, advances in digital communications has enabled flexible working. Prior to the events of 2020, the demand for flexible working arrangements was already growing and now WFH/WFA has further increased in prevalence. This growth in WFH has forced employers to make changes to their means of coordination and communication.
How do I measure productivity in a remote workforce?
If this is a question you have asked yourself, it is worth reflecting upon how it was previously measured in your co-located office environment. Did you judge based upon how busy someone looked? The overall time an employee spent in the office or at their desk? Realistically, there are far better, more objective, metrics for measuring productivity, that can be utilised in both in-person and remote distributed teams.
5 Ways to Measure Productivity in a Remote Environment
1. Self-Efficacy Assessments
Self-efficacy assessments can play a critical role in influencing your employee remote work effectiveness, perceived productivity, job satisfaction and ability to cope. Self-efficacy refers to the judgement of one’s ability to execute a particular behaviour pattern through past experience, vicarious experience, coaching and evaluation, and physiological and emotional states. The understanding from these assessments can also further enhance productivity that can be controlled managerially, such as training, computer anxiety and IT capabilities.
2. Results Oriented Culture
Provided you trust your employees, one of the best measures for productivity can be results alone, rather than time committed. Provided your employees are providing the quality of results you expect, when you expect them, then remote working is working out well for you.
3. Stay Connected
Not only does staying connected via collaborative tools like Slack, Zoom and MS teams allow progress discussions in real-time, making it easy to ensure that all team members are engaged and being productive, but it can increase productivity. A connected team is more productive than a disjointed team.
4. KPIs, Goals, Milestones & Deadlines
Measuring productivity against KPIs, goals, milestones and deadlines allows you to follow the progress of tasks in incremental chunks, giving more opportunities to measure progress and intervene before a team member falls behind. Task managers such as Trello or Asana can help teams clearly manage and visualise time-points for individual and team tasks.
5. Measure Absenteeism & Presenteeism
Practically, it is useful to think of productivity as consisting of two parts: absenteeism and presenteeism (when an employee works but performs at a lower level because of illness or another factor). Being able to measure and analyse absenteeism and presenteeism across teams and your whole organisation will provide you with a view on remote workers productivity.
sydTM & Our Corporate Dashboard
Our engaging app sydTM works alongside companies to maximise both people and business performance through empowering your employees to take charge of their health and lifestyle. The investment into employee wellbeing itself through sydTM improves employee quality of life, increases productivity and decreases absenteeism and presenteeism. Additionally, our corporate dashboard provides employers with the opportunity to view key insights for decision making and productivity understanding at the organisational or team level.
Measure & Improve Employee Productivity
To find out more about how you can improve and measure employee productivity, book a demo with our team today.
Choudhury, Prithwiraj., Foroughi, Cirrus. & Larson, Barbara. Z.. Work-from-Anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibilty. Acadmey of Management, (2020). https://doi.org/10.5465/AMBPP.2020.225
Bloom, Nicholas., Liang, James., Roberts, J. & Ying, Zhichun. J. Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 16-218, (2015).
Monteiro, Natália. P., Straume, Odd. R. & Valente, Marieta. Does Remote Work Improve or Impair Firm Labour Productivity? Longitudinal Evidence from Portugal. CESifo Working Paper No. 7991, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3507262
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Evans, Christopher. J. Health and Work Productivity Assessment: State of the Art or State of Flux? Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 46(6), S3-S11, (2004).
Lojeski, Karen. S. & Reilly, Richard. R. The Power of Virtual Distance: A Guide to Productivity and Happiness in the Age of Remote Work. Second Edition. Wiley, United States (2020).
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