Managing the Output
Managers understand all too well how employee relations, company culture and workplace dynamics affect a team’s productivity levels. For a manager tasked with handling a telecommuting team, the stakes are just as high but the landscape completely different.
In a traditional office setting, you see your staff busy at their workstations, brainstorming with their colleagues or making small talk around the water cooler. Making sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing during office hours is a simple enough task. But how does promoting and tracking productivity change when you don’t see your team on a day-to-day basis?
A Forbes Magazine article titled “4 Surprising Truths about Workplace Productivity” may have a couple of productivity tips you can capitalize on:
- Busywork thrills. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that even employees who prefer to be challenged at work subconsciously love rote tasks that require minimal brainwork—things like sorting through email, filling in trackers or even just organizing their workspaces. Busywork gives them a sense of accomplishment without overtaxing them, allowing them to stay productive without the risk of burnout.
Management Tip: Give your teleworkers the chance to achieve this balance by assigning just enough major tasks to get them through the shift while still allowing space for minor busywork.
- Social media. Banning social media websites like Facebook and Twitter may seem like a no-brainer for a manager, but experts say such measures can actually be counterproductive. A 2013 survey by Ipsos and Microsoft revealed that 46% of employees believe access to social media and social media tools improved their productivity.
Management Tip: The mental breaks and mood boosts provided by social media are valuable commodities. Think of social media as a tool rather than a drain on productivity.
The internet puts a huge arsenal of productivity-tracking tools at your disposal—tools you can easily adapt to a fully mobile workforce or to a mixed group of office- and home-based employees.
Time-tracking software like Time Doctor, for instance, allow you to monitor your team’s application and Internet usage, log work hours, and even record screenshots and keystrokes for each worker’s computer at specified intervals.
The main argument against this type of tracking is that while it’s technologically feasible, it isn’t an accurate measure of productivity. To make sense of your team’s numerical tracking results, therefore, the Midwest Institute for Telecommuting Education recommends that you factor the following metrics into your productivity statistics:
- Quantity of work
- Deadline management
- Customer satisfaction
- Quality of work
It is also important to minimize the gap between your in-office and mobile workplace processes as much as possible. For instance, if you use a combination of Skype and email to coordinate with your office staff, use the same channels for your teleworkers. This way, productivity can be evaluated objectively and efficiently.