How can HR leaders contribute to alleviating the impact of remote work on employee performance?
Use technology to create efficient work processes
COVID-19 has affected working conditions drastically shifting work from offices to homes for an indefinite period of time. For some, the transition from office to work was easy, while for some it has become a roller-coaster ride of emotions, as they juggle their time between family and work. Not all remote workers can maintain their productivity levels at their work-from-office levels. This could be due to a lack of amenities like fast internet connections and quick interactions with team members or the inevitable distractions at home. While no one knows how the future will unfold, most employers are still evaluating the impact of remote work on employee performance to some extent. Some employers are so happy with the productivity of their employees that they are shutting offices down and turning to permanent work-from-home arrangements. Others are unhappy and feel that there’s a drop in productivity when employees are working from home.
This article aims to consider the factors that affect productivity, in cases where there’s a drop. Various factors contribute to the drop in employee performance in a remote working set-up, stress, and anxiety being at the top of the list.
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The remote work set-up has compelled employees to work from home for a longer period of time. Some of them are anxious about their job security in these uncertain times. This has drastically affected the productivity levels of these employees. With the workload piling up day-by-day coupled with anxiety about the uncertain employment tenure, the productivity of the employees could easily take a big blow. The main reason cited for the drop in productivity levels of the employees is the lack of proper communication between the team members. Communication plays a vital role when it comes to teamwork. An employee needs to be given clear instructions on what has to be done, what is the ultimate objective of the task, and also be aware of their clients’ expectations. Unless there are proper avenues of communication between team members working towards a specific goal together but from different locations, it could prove difficult to ensure the required levels of calibration in their work. This, in turn, would affect their level of productivity.
Any prevailing health issues of the employee or their family members could result in a loss of focus on the task at hand thus affecting productivity at work. When employees play a dual role and need to act as caregivers and attend to their sick family member(s), it could prove quite emotionally draining. This would add to their overall stress and may even cause anxiety and depression.
With the social distancing norms in place, employees are confined to their homes with almost zero social contact. For those who are extroverts and tend to enjoy a social life, it could become very difficult to maintain the same levels of productivity as during work-from-office.
Lack of access to workspace tools can hamper the progress of work and impact employee performance drastically. Building a collaborative workspace is essential to facilitate efficient business processes and ensure its growth. It is also necessary to foster effective communication between teams, which need to collaborate when delivering on the same task.
Communication is a critical aspect of success. It is the responsibility of an HR professional to ensure that communication between team members is open, transparent, frequent, and consistent. This helps to ensure that every team member is on the same page.
As employees often tend to feel disconnected from their co-workers and managers in the work-from-home model, the frequency and consistency of communication also hold the utmost importance. A weekly schedule of huddles and meetings provide a structure to the overall objectives of an organization. It is also vital for communications to be of high-quality. It is quite time-consuming and draining for everyone involved if the meetings are to be conducted without a proper agenda in place. It is essential to wisely use an employee’s time and thereby facilitate work-life balance during remote working. The aim here should always be to ensure the efficiency and productivity of employees while establishing clear lines of communication.
Another way to avoid online fatigue is to use varied channels of communication such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, or probably a cellphone for a one-one talk. Ensure communication is a two-way process where employees feel comfortable raising queries or concerns about the work at hand.
Also, it is necessary to keep employees informed about the financial health of the company and its operations as it can relieve them of any doubts regarding their job security, during turbulent times like the current crisis.
Frequency of communication is important when it comes to assessing and supporting the employee’s mental health. Social isolation has real consequences on the mental health of the employees. The poor mental state has a huge impact on employee productivity.
It is the responsibility of the Human Resource team to be mindful of the challenges faced by their employees. Parents of young children and those caring for medically vulnerable family members may need additional support. The provision of additional resources such as mental health discussions and counseling from an expert will help provide sufficient support to enhance an employee’s well-being.
For stand-alone tasks, which do not require collaboration with the team members in the form of extensive meetings and huddles, working remotely tends to boost employee productivity. However, collaborative tasks that need teamwork can significantly reduce employee productivity levels if there is no opportunity for clear communication between the team members. The onus of fostering a sense of connection and empathy between the team members lies with the human resource team when it is found to be missing in the remote working model. Frequent but very short meetings in sync with the agenda can help maintain focus, attention, and energy. Make sure your team has access to virtual tools and resources to stay engaged and productive. More interactive and engaged teams equate to higher employee productivity levels.
On one hand, remote work might be easy for some to juggle with work and household responsibilities. For others, it may bring a whole lot of chaos and additional challenges while working from home. It may be difficult for some employees to find a distraction-free workplace at home while caring for children or other members of the family. There is no significant distinguished line between work and personal responsibilities and employees may end up losing track of time and start working for 18 to 20 hours in a day and feel burnt out. HR may counsel employees on ways to spend time with families and take care of the needs of their loved ones without a significant impact on their productivity. Help employees create a work schedule and stick to it to promote work-life balance.
The role of technology is vital in improving the remote working experience for both the employee and the employer. Virtual collaboration and communication tools are essential for a successful remote working strategy. Collaboration tools such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, and file-sharing tools like Dropbox. Google Drive can be deployed by the organization to facilitate effective communication between the team members. Project Management tools like Basecamp, Asana, Monday.com help to facilitate clear communication of the tasks and deliverables between the team members.
With proper HR practices in place, remote working can be made productive, and exert a less negative impact on employee performance. Also, leveraging technology to its maximum potential can bridge the communication gap and make sure that the remote working model is efficient and effective.