I have a question for you: Does anyone in the world have more time than you do?
Scientifically and logically, that is not possible. However, some people sure do seem to have a lot more time than others, judging by the amount of work they get done in a day. The magic word here is “productivity”.
All of us, especially managers, seem to have a different idea of what productivity looks like. How our mind perceives it will affect how we estimate our own productivity and that of others.
Now, this is how the Google dictionary defines it:
Decide How You Define Productivity
The bottomline here would be that we see output for whatever we are doing or have asked someone to do. If you assign a task to your team and see them making progress very quickly, you’d say they’re productive. If they are working for long stretches of time but showing no progress nor delivering any output, you probably wouldn’t say they’re productive. You see them being “busy”, but not “productive”.
This goes for both remote and on-site work. Your location doesn’t change the definition of productivity; it’d be wrong to have different expectations from your remote employees just because they are working from home. Many of us often do fall into that trap; we begin feeling the need to keep a stricter eye on our remote employees because we can’t see them working. What we really want is for our employees to be “productive”.
Once you’ve understood that this is your actual goal, you’re ready to be more productive yourself, as well as to empower your team and help them be more productive.
How to Encourage Your Employees to be More Productive
Oftentimes, your employees need to hear from you that you want them to take care of themselves, that you care about them and their wellbeing, not just the work that they churn out. Here are some things you can encourage them to do:
Establish a healthy routine:
A simple rule of thumb is that if you’re not getting enough sleep, you cannot maximize your productivity. The same has been proven for diet and exercise.
Your mind will be foggy and you won’t be able to do your best work. Most of the time, we lose ourselves in work so much (especially when working remotely and the boundaries between work and life are hazy) that we forget we can only continue for so long before we face burnout. Productivity isn’t about getting one task done well, it’s about doing all our work in the best ways possible. That requires building yourself a healthy routine with a good 7 or 8 hours of sleep.
Apart from that, eating healthy and sticking to some structure in your day can do wonders for your productivity. The lack of daily commute and a designated lunch hour makes it easier for remote employees to forget to eat in between because they don’t feel as tired. And for some of us, burning those calories off might be a bigger problem which is why a balance between both is required.
Look at productivity tips from any tycoon and you’ll see them swearing by their diet and exercise routines. In fact, this has been cited as one major way to reduce stress and improve productivity!
Limit daily check-ins and unnecessary meetings
This one goes both ways: It’s on your employees to manage their time spent on Twitter or Reddit. But it’s on you to ensure there aren’t too many distractive check-ins and mandatory meetings which don’t really require everyone’s presence.
We’ve seen managers who have daily check-ins and their teams don’t look any more productive than those who don’t, but we’ve also seen teams that cherish the morning calls because they get an interactive start to their day.
Here’s one popular opinion that outlines the importance of having “just enough process”. You can’t streamline everything, but you can provide a flexible structure to ensure things get done without being obsessive or invasive. This is exactly what timegram does. It provides a flexible, non-invasive structure which managers can tweak to their preferences using the rules engine, and then it gives employees the control to show the best examples of their productivity accordingly.
Here’s another opinion and this redditor has a valid point here. Why hire someone if you don’t trust them? And if you do trust them, why hinder their productive process with the check-ins?
Recommended Reading: Employee Surveillance: Is it Actually Affecting Work Productivity?
Recognize their productivity windows and utilize them (insights can help)
Our productivity peaks in cycles of 90 minutes. After this time, our brain needs to wind down and then it can be more productive. This cycle is called the “ultradian rhythm”. Tony Schwartz, the author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, swears by this technique and says it’s been “life-changing” for him.
So, encourage your employees to identify their peak productivity hours and schedule their more demanding tasks in that time window! This would, of course, mean that they have some flexibility with their task and time management, but it would prevent more of these (VERY common) situations!
People at Evernote elaborate on this as follows:
“When you find your peak productivity times—your personal ultradian rhythm—that’s when it’s prime time to tackle projects involving creative strategizing, problem-solving, and critical decisions. Hit the hard, challenging, out-of-the-box stuff during these peak phases. You can save more routine tasks, less complex problem-solving, and other less brain- and creativity-intensive work for your naturally-occurring ultradian valleys.”
So how do you identify these patterns? A gentle push in the right direction could do the trick. One way to do this is to use timegram which gives you productivity insights on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and helps you understand the window in which your team members enter their peak productivity zone.
Here’s What You Can Do at Your End
Now that your employees are equipped with their axes of productivity, it’s up to you to sharpen their weapons and enable their efficiency. This requires a different approach when you’re working with remote employees.
Set up systems to boost and facilitate productivity
It’s not enough just to ask employees to work on routines and habits. As managers, you need to facilitate productive work, and to do this, you need proper systems in place. These systems must provide just the right balance of flexibility and transparency to allow productive freedom.
timegram is one such tool for managers who are looking for that perfect balance. It allows you to allocate projects according to your employees’ capacity (so that no one is overburdened) and gives you productivity insights so that everyone works according to their own productive rhythm.
With timegram, you get all the perks of seamless project management, making sure your work flow is smooth all the way, from project creation, allocation, estimation, to billing and … Ka-ching $$ ! Your employees would be on the same page even if they’re remote and there’d be no room for misunderstandings.
It is basically a win-win platform where everyone has the tools to reach their productivity summit.
Trust your employees
Say no to surveillance. Countless experiences and studies have proven that invasive monitoring or surveillance, as we call it, gnaws at the core of your employer-employee relationship. Not only does it corrode trust but also reduces your employees’ ability to be creative or productive.
If you’re someone who uses bossware in the guise of “time-tracking” software which records screenshots, webcam shots, keystroke counts etc. and then complains of reduced collaboration + productivity, please stop. Heed the words above, and instead, start using a real productivity tracker like timegram which keeps track of your employees’ time and activity in a way that they’re happy with.
Give your employees their dignity, treat them with respect, and then watch how quickly they reciprocate with their best work. This goes especially for remote workers because most managers find themselves unable to trust those who are “out of sight”. Their productivity is not dependent on their visibility, and it’s time we all understood that.
Recommended Reading: How Managers are Battling Employee Backlash Over Monitoring