The number of people working remotely has increased dramatically. 88% of organizations worldwide made it mandatory or encouraged employees to work from home this year.Remote working appears to be working well for many companies, with research revealing that remote employees are more productive when working from home.
However, while productivity levels may be generally high, slumps are inevitable. This can happen when work activities start to blur with personal ones. Such as when parents try to both work remotely and babysit, causing them to become stressed and therefore less productive.
Ineffective collaboration can also be an issue, especially in companies without an online collaboration platform in place. Remote workers can also become lonely or isolated, which affects their psychological and emotional wellbeing.
If left unchecked, these productivity slumps could significantly reduce economic growth for a company. So, it’s essential that managers know how to identify the signs of remote work productivity slumps and fix them as soon as possible.
Here are four signs an employee is suffering a productivity slump, and some ways to get them back up to speed.
1 Lack of interaction
Team members need to collaborate frequently to succeed. If your remote worker has access to all the right communication tools, such as a hosted predictive dialer, but suddenly stops communicating, this is a red flag that something’s amiss.
If you’re managing your remote team effectively, all members should feel they have a voice in group discussions. If a remote worker stops participating they could be suffering from disconnection.
First, make sure they know how to use all the tools at their disposal. If the problem’s not technical, their lack of interaction could be down to a disconnection with the team.
In a normal office environment, co-workers are continually bumping into each other sparking spontaneous interactions and creating opportunities for casual conversations. Not so in the new virtual world where the working day is filled with one group video call after another – where on screen avatars often replace real faces.
This creates feelings of isolation. And this can lead to employees feeling less involved in their work and less open to interaction. As a manager, it can be hard to know when a worker is feeling this kind of disconnect. The usual cues aren’t available. Those that you would pick up talking to them in the next cubicle or noting their physical behavior.
Plus, those working from home are often reluctant to complain about how they feel, fearing they’ll be judged.
Take steps to improve engagement. Consider implementing team building activities that are both fun and bring people together in order to rebuild trust.
Look out for workers who only ‘talk shop’. In the absence of those all-important social interactions, aim to replicate ad-hoc conversations. For example, leave time free at the end of the day on Friday for colleagues to chat about their plans for the weekend. Try out brainstorming sessions or pair workers up for projects or even online games.
Send out warm welcome emails to new team members and assign them a ‘buddy’ so they have someone to turn to besides management.
2 Missing Deadlines
This is one of the most obvious signs of employee disconnection. If a usually dependable member of the team starts missing deadlines, it’s time to investigate. It could be down to a lack of clear communication or misinformation. Or it could go deeper.
When employees are motivated and engaged they tend to go over and above what’s expected of them. Not only do they hit their deadlines, but they’re keen to take on additional work and are always looking for opportunities to add value. it’s easy for a manager to identify these high performers.
It’s also easy to spot workers who lack initiative and try to do the minimum possible to keep their job. If a team member starts to miss deadlines, it may be because they’re suffering from stress or anxiety. They may feel overwhelmed about taking on difficult assignments. If you notice a consistent change in performance, such as being late for meetings, not delivering expected results ,or appearing bored or apathetic, then it’s time to take action.
Repetition can cause poor performance
It could be repetition that’s at the bottom of their lacking performance. Days spent working from home can blur into one another. There are no longer any social lunch breaks or even a daily commute to break up the day.
To boost motivation and help employees hit their deadlines, encourage them to break up their workloads into manageable chunks throughout the day. Get them to use a timer or a time management app to organize the day. Share small wins as well as big achievements with the team so that individuals feel appreciated and rewarded.
If concentration is an issue, try the Pomodoro technique. This is a productivity-boosting method which involves people working in 25 minute blocks, taking a five minute break at the end of each block. After the fourth block of work, encourage staff to take a 15 minute break.
Offer ongoing training, too, such as providing cold calling tips, to remote staff to keep their skills up to date. Make sure each team member is completely aware of what their job entails and identify any skill gaps.
If possible, get employees to change up their work location – maybe from the bedroom to the kitchen table or even outside if weather permits.
3 Calling in sick
If a team member takes an excessive number of sick days, they could be suffering from anxiety or feelings of isolation. This may be due to them having too many personal commitments while working remotely. Or they could be suffering from burnout by putting in too many hours.
During the pandemic, it’s essential to uncover the reasons and offer flexibility and support. While the number one perk of working remotely is flexibility, this newfound flexible schedule often brings with it new pressures and creates an unhealthy work/life balance.
When working from home it’s all too easy to work overtime and let work eat into personal time. For example, feeling the need to respond to non-urgent messages after finishing the working day. This behavior can lead to long term stress – days off sick – and a corresponding decrease in productivity.
To get employees back on track, set and enforce a strict ‘office hours’ code. That way, employees don’t overwork (or underwork). Get employees to set their availability on apps so they don’t receive notifications outside those hours. It’s also possible to set working hours on Google Calendar so that off-hour event invitations are automatically declined.
Encourage team members to wear professional clothing throughout the working day to remind them that they’re in ‘working mode’. It can also help if they have an ‘end of work’ ritual, such as going for a walk, or watching a movie.
Make sure remote workers have realistic goals and clear expectations around timescales.
Don’t be a cause of this potentially harmful work culture – be considerate and only send messages that need to be sent. Explain, too, that you don’t require an immediate response. Teach staff that it’s ok to say ‘no’ now and again if too much is being asked of them.
4 Unhealthy conflict
Remote employees cite collaboration and communication issues as one of their chief concerns when working remotely. And unhealthy conflict can arise when communication is not as open or positive as it should be.
If you’re finding that certain team members cannot agree on issues or appear resentful, threatened, or overly stressed when interacting with others, then you need to diffuse the situation.
Conflict can arise at a task level where it appears as though someone is not ‘pulling their weight’ or can be down to a personality clash. Asynchronous remote communication can also foster unhealthy conflict and cause staff to disregard normal workplace etiquette. Without the opportunity to see others face to face, employees may be less inclined to resolve that conflict ,too.
Technology can help you resolve conflict. By adopting the best remote work tools, like real time messaging apps, employees have the option to have realistic conversations. In-meeting video can also help people read each other’s facial expressions and give them important visual clues, leading to better communication and understanding.
Offer regular times to meet so that employees can air their grievances. Greater transparency can also be a useful way to de-escalate conflict.
Having the latest business productivity tools onboard is not only essential for team productivity. It’s also vital for boosting customer satisfaction levels. Without solutions like a robust call forwarding service, you won’t be able to achieve optimal customer experience.
To sum up, it’s essential to look out for all the signs we’ve outlined so you can act quickly and avoid a serious drop in productivity. Explore different variables by ensuring that staff have reasonable timescales and the right technology to work with. If things don’t improve, their drop in performance could be down to your management style or company culture.
Being a good manager entails paying close attention to your remote employees in order to identify signs of stress or disengagement. Only then can you provide a solution to their problems and ensure they stay healthy and productive.