Work Smart Now! Chapter Two: Introducing Productivity
by Richard Polak
CEO: Thank you all for attending once again. When we last met, we discussed all the research that supports the productivity initiative I plan to roll out. These improvements will help the firm without stressing individuals. In fact, the initiative is designed to relieve pressure rather than add to it.
CEO: Well, let’s take a look. Picture three circles, a small circle inside a medium-sized one, inside a larger one. The inner circle represents Comfort. The second circle represents Discomfort. The third circle represents Panic. Does anybody have an idea where I’m going with this?
Bethany: I’ll take a guess
CEO: Great. Go ahead.
Bethany: You want us in the comfort zone.
Bethany: Panic zone?
Bill: You want us to be uncomfortable because we can’t grow or learn if we’re comfortable or panicked
CEO: Exactly. That’s a means to live your personal lives too. If you’re not challenged, you will not grow. Life isn’t stagnant. No matter how hard one might try, one cannot stay the same. If you do nothing to grow and learn, you won’t stay the same—you will regress. You will actually slow down, atrophy, and deteriorate. You will be less happy. We all must be on a growth path. This company—any corporation, really—manifests that with growth. I’ve always thought that business was an excuse for people to connect and grow. I’m hoping on a much higher level that I’ll be able to achieve this within the company. But it cannot be done without growing financially. They go hand in hand. At the very core, for those in this room, especially professional services folks, change “Do only the things that you can do,” to “Only do the things that only you can do.” Everything else should be discarded or delegated.
Definition of Productivity
For the purposes of this book, we are using the term productivity in the context of individuals—in some cases, team performance. The OECD, World Bank, United Nations, and other governmental and nongovernmental organizations use the term as a ratio between the output volume and the volume of inputs. One of the most widely used measures of productivity is gross domestic product (GDP) per hour worked. In the previous chapter, I mentioned this as an important marker. However, note that hours worked does not necessarily translate to a great GDP. The same concept applies in your organization. Remember, top performers don’t necessarily work harder. They work smarter. If they work smart and hard, they’ll achieve optimal performance. The emphasis here is not on “hard,” it’s on “smart.” I think we all work hard. Our corporations and enterprises have pushed that concept to the limit. This is clear from all the research showing stress levels of individuals around the world.
Before we dig into this chapter, it’s important to emphasize that there are fundamentals that a company must achieve before this book and its precepts can make an impact. Increasing productivity is not an excuse for bad fundamentals. Even if your firm is perceived as currently running well, the company must have the basic fundamentals in order to optimize productivity. This book is designed to add value to an existing organization that is already healthy. First, you must get your house in order with the very basic tenets of running a business: financial, sales, marketing, and operations. This goes for your personal lives as well. You must have the foundation of a reasonably healthy life in order to build a healthy business, and that primarily includes both physical and mental health.
The truth is that there are many different factors that influence how well a workplace runs and how that impacts its workforce. Without a fundamentally sound workplace and culture, it will be almost impossible to take steps to maximize productivity and worker potential. And despite the research available on the topic, it turns out that creating a great workplace is a bit less common than it should be. With that in mind, I want to talk about how to define a great workplace and what you should think about as you look at bettering your own. Don’t assume that you have it under control or that your current workplace “works” just fine. There is a difference between thriving and surviving, and shouldn’t you want your business to fall under the former? So, let’s talk about how you can create an office that promotes growth and innovation.
What Defines a Great Workplace?
What is a “great” workplace? Many might believe that organizations offering the best benefits, such as healthcare and free meals, automatically create the best office environments, but that’s not necessarily true. Whereas things like complimentary food and comprehensive healthcare are important to overall workforce health and happiness, they alone do not determine whether a workplace is objectively “great.” A truly great workplace is one where employees are valued as individuals, where differences not only are accepted but also are embraced as opportunities to better the overall work experience. Diversity is something to be appreciated in these offices because it helps the organization in question understand many different viewpoints and create better overall products or services in response. A great workplace also offers straightforward, honest information to its employees rather than anything that is spun or suppressed, while also adding value to them. Rather than being perceived as a replaceable means to an end, workers in these spaces are seen as valuable to the organization and are treated with dignity and respect with that truth in mind. Finally, great workplaces offer their employees something to be passionate about, from rewarding work to a meaningful mission and value statement. Employees want to feel as though their efforts are contributing to a greater good, and great organizations make sure that their employees understand exactly how they’re helping.
Many of these factors might not seem out of the ordinary. In fact, most of them probably sound like common sense—and that’s because they are. These are things that make sense. Logically, most of us understand that our time is valuable and want our work to mean something. We all want to be part of an organization that cares about how we’re doing and why it is impacting our work ability rather than simply seeing us as a number on a screen that will be replaced if something goes wrong. In principle, everything we just named is reasonable. In practice, the vast majority of those elements are treated as optional or patently unreasonable by higher-ups. It can be time consuming to build a workplace where people are valued for their individuality and the different perspectives and strengths they bring to the table, much less one where that diversity is coveted and actively supported and promoted. The typical workplace doesn’t offer many of those fundamental elements at all, eschewing them in favor of results. But as we’ve already learned and will explore quite a bit going forward, the results that traditional workplace perspectives encourage are rarely optimal and typically leave much room for improvement.
You might be looking at the preceding information and shaking your head. I know it’s a lot to take in. I’m not saying that you should be able to create the perfect environment—perfection is never obtainable. I’m pointing out that creating a great workplace might seem like a mystery, but it’s actually quite straightforward. What is a great workplace? One where people are appreciated and celebrated. It’s a workplace that emphasizes the individual workers as well as how they come together and drive innovation and excellence as a team. None of this is new information, nor is it full of unexpected revelations. Even if you can’t implement every single fundamental element into your workplace, there are things you can do to improve your organization and enhance the experience of your workforce.
Let’s look at some of the principles that can help you shift the emphasis from the bottom line to the people helping your organization improve.
1. Embrace Individuality
One of the most important things you can do to promote a healthy workplace is to allow people to be themselves. Don’t limit yourself to traditional diversity categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, or age. Although attempting to include a variety of these demographics in your workplace is a great idea, hitting quotas is not the best way to promote true diversity and individualism. Instead, look at individuals with different experiences, different perspectives, different ways of thinking, and different core assumptions. You can have a workforce full of employees of all ages, ethnicities, and races, but if they all have the same ideas, perspectives, and worldviews, you aren’t going to reap the benefits of a truly diverse team. And it is easier than you might expect to end up in a situation where a group of individuals are “diverse” on paper but not in practice. After all, many of us pursued the same education in search of the same kind of job based on shared beliefs.
Organizations and managers should understand dominant currents in work habits, culture, dress code, governing assumptions, and traditions without accepting them as the “ideal.” This is where a more subtle understanding of diversity comes into play. A great organization will transcend the norms in search of individuals whose perspectives and talents can benefit everyone and improve organization prosperity and growth. Think about a creative company—a fashion company, for example—where the workforce norms include flexible hours and rather eclectic styles. You might not expect to see the straitlaced executive focused on data analysis, yet having them in the organization is objectively beneficial when it comes to understanding business trends and making smart market decisions.
A diverse organization that values individuality will enable employees to work in the way that makes them comfortable, appreciate their contribution, and treat their preferences as normal even when they don’t fit “industry norms.” This also means understanding what biases workers might encounter in the workplace and taking steps to eliminate or overcome them in order to support employees from all walks of life.
2. Share Information
It can be tempting to spin information to suit a specific narrative and hide information that cannot be spun, but the truth is that it is incredibly hard to hide something indefinitely in today’s world. Sooner or later, the truth will be revealed. If you’ve gone out of your way to deceive your employees, they will remember that action and will learn to distrust your words in the future. This, as you might expect, leads only to a fractured work environment where the workforce is constantly second-guessing management, especially if the information in question directly impacts its well-being. Avoid this struggle altogether and simply give your workers the unspun truth yourself before they learn it elsewhere. Taking this approach can only help align the organization and keep everyone on the same page. When employees share the same knowledge, they are more likely to be able to understand different motivations and will compromise in order to produce quality work or create new ideas that are beneficial to everyone involved.
This can be a difficult guideline to follow. There are a myriad of different approaches to information dissemination, and just about everyone has strong feelings as to why their method is the best. Some managers, for example, believe that they should focus primarily on avoiding worrying the staff with information that might not prove to be important. The unfortunate consequence of this perspective, despite its seemingly being benign and even praiseworthy, is that if the information proves to be quite important, it will have already begun to impact workers by the time they learn of it. This is often true in cases where an impending change in office processes or norms is being discussed but has not yet been decided upon. By the time the decision has been made to implement changes, it’s likely that the majority of the higher-ups in the organization in question have already begun to treat employees and their work as though those changes are already in place. This will naturally lead to confusion and pushback from a workforce that feels as though the changes are sudden and unexpected. The same is true of the manager who wants to avoid bearing bad news. No one wants to break unfortunate information to their coworkers, but refusing to do so crushes the flow of vital information. Even bad news can be mitigated if it is discussed openly and the opportunity to change things is presented.
The idea that information should be honestly conveyed to the workforce is often known as “radical honesty,” and it can be difficult to embrace. Opening the communication channels required to implement such a policy can be overwhelming all on its own, and that’s before training everyone as to how to use it. Additionally, some information simply can’t be shared with everyone. Trade secrets, for example, must remain confidential. And being honest won’t necessarily avoid all backlash. The takeaway here is that when you’re honest, at least the workforce has the same information, and everyone can work toward a shared vision based on it.
3. Emphasize Strengths
Today’s market is an increasingly competitive one in almost every field imaginable, with innovative companies sprouting across the globe. It is more important than ever to create a workforce filled with talented individuals who aren’t afraid to take risks and push for innovative solutions to problems old and new alike. On the surface, it might seem like this competition is a good thing for employers. After all, if there is an abundance of talent vying for positions in a specific industry, then losing someone must not be that detrimental. You can always replace them, right? Except that doing this doesn’t create a unified workforce. In fact, it doesn’t even encourage current employees to put much effort or care into their work. If you view people as disposable, you’re likely going to receive disposable work in return.
Focus on hiring great talent and training them to magnify their strengths instead of replacing them. Don’t treat your workforce as a disposable entity but as an investment. Work with your employees to identify and enhance their abilities so that they can give you the very best work possible. This improves their effectiveness and productivity, not to mention the loyalty with which they view the organization. And maximizing employees’ potential is a great way to create a long-term workforce filled with capable, experienced individuals who are comfortable working together and making innovative or creative suggestions.
Some may find this suggestion to be unreasonable. Investing in employees might seem more costly than replacing them with more experienced talent, at least in the short-term. But in the long-term you are creating valuable employees with a varied set of skills so they can tackle many different situations. Create your own elite workforce instead of hiring them from the outside. You will build a loyal workforce excited to do well and improve your organization. A great employer understands that individuals are valuable. In turn, this will make your organization valuable.
4. Live the Brand
Having a mission statement is important when it comes to building a unified workforce. But it is equally important to understand the difference between shoving an idea down employees’ throats and creating something around which they can organically rally. This might sound like an odd thing to say. After all, if you have a good mission statement, shouldn’t that be enough to motivate employees?
The idea behind this tip is that you should create a work culture that focuses more on maintaining and forging powerful connections between your organizational values and your personal values—and, by extension, your employees’ personal values—than on repeating your mission statement over and over again. It’s important to embody that mission statement and to create tangible examples of it throughout the workplace. This enables employees to connect your organization’s values with more than lip service. When they see how the company and their coworkers interact with those values on a practical level, they are much more likely to connect the ideas in question with their own values. And when that happens, it becomes even easier to forge a unified workspace founded on shared values and individuality alike. Give your employees the opportunity to internalize company values and interpret those meanings on their own.
For this particular guideline to work, your business must forge your values, not the other way around. It’s one thing to create a mission statement that sounds good; it’s another to illustrate those values to both your employees and your customers. When workers feel as though your organization’s practices embody its purported values, they begin to become more aligned with your goals as well as with their fellow employees. At the same time, this clear demonstration of values in action also enables them to consider what those values mean to them and how they will uphold them in their daily lives.
5. Ensure That the Work Makes Sense
Understanding what your employees are doing and the tasks they are expected to perform is important. I mean this on a more personal level than simply recognizing that one department does a specific set of tasks and another focuses on a different set of tasks. I mean that you should understand what every employee is doing relative to their job title and their strengths. This can be a formidable process in larger companies, but I believe that it is fully worth the time it takes to conduct job reviews and assessments. The idea is that when your employees identify with their work and understand how it fits into the big picture, they are more likely to feel as though their time at work is productive and useful. Match your employees to the work they want to do—the work for which they were hired. There are a few different ways to do this. You can set up more specific job descriptions that are explicit about the tasks expected and required, or you can dramatically loosen those descriptions and allow employees their pick of certain projects or responsibilities (usually in conjunction with fixed job tasks). Either way, enabling workers to do the work they feel passionate about is a fantastic way to create a work environment that exceeds their expectations.
You can’t accurately consider productivity in the office without factoring in the underlying fundamental physical issues that might restrict us from working at our best. This includes proper office space and temperature control. Even though it should go without being said, workers need enough space to get their work done effectively and productively. And the temperature in the office must be at a reasonable level—not too hot, not too cold, but just right. If any of these factors are missing, productivity is restricted on a fundamental level.
Proper leadership and management are also important. Nothing is perfect, of course, but you must be confident that you have the right people in the right jobs. If your employees are dissatisfied and unhappy with management, none of the tools I provide in this book will get you anywhere. Leadership and management are critical. Highlighting this, Mavenlink‘s “Future of Work” survey questioned 1,002 full-time employees in a US corporate environment during September 2019. Forty-five percent of all respondents selected “poor management/leadership” as the top productivity killer.
Culture in a Box
Culture is the fabric of your organization. Whether you like it or not, you have a culture. If it’s not spelled out or if you haven’t driven it, it will drive itself. The problem with its driving itself is that you don’t know where you’re going; therefore, when you get there, you don’t know where you are. This section speaks to a defined culture. It’s a culture in a box as I like to call it.
What was the best company you ever worked for? It’s likely to be the one where you were most productive. Consider what made it so great. Was it great pay, benefits, and a short commute? Most people might think so. But surprisingly, these are not the most important factors. Instead, you likely had a series of challenging duties in an environment where people respected you and challenged you to do your best. You pushed for creative solutions because everyone supported that kind of problem solving. With that in mind, I’m going to explore some principles that make ventures successful and can be applied to organizations of any size.
Why are these important? Well, I doubt that I would have left to start my own firm if my former employer had a strong culture that matched the eloquent words of the mission statement on the wall. In the company’s actual measures of excellence (money), I was successful. The work came easy for me, and I was promoted regularly. I led the company in sales and revenue. But it wasn’t enough. The company’s culture didn’t match the lofty statements they professed to follow.
I left that firm because the words on the plaque were never taken seriously. When I packed my belongings in a box, I left with my personal effects and a belief that the way I approached my job, my customers, and my life was more effective than the corporate culture I was leaving behind. This box held my own culture: my culture in a box.
Culture in a box represents the way we will build our companies, with a focus on all of the people involved. You won’t find a mission statement on the wall. There is no need for one. When your actions match your core values for living, you’ll find that amazing things can happen. You will increase your revenue, reduce your turnover, increase your customer retention, and get rave reviews when people ask for references from your customers. Even better, you’ll get rave reviews from those employees that you let go.
The following are the concepts of a culture in a box. Applying these principles should improve your profits, your life, your health, and those of your company and employees.
1. Customers Second: Every second fiber of our company should be directed toward the customer. The first is to the employees. Employees are your most valuable assets, not customers. Customers come and go, but when treated properly, employees are there to stay. If your employees are happy, they will do better work, be healthier, and serve customers better. Employees first, customers second, and money third. If you follow those tenets, the money always comes.
2. Work Is Life: Don’t separate work from life. Life consists of 24-hour segments. All of it is life, not just the nonworking hours. In fact, work composes more than 50 percent of your waking life. By including work as a part of life, employees become more responsible.
3. Respect the Corporate Documents: A corporation is nothing more than a piece of paper filed with the secretary of state. It’s easy to obtain, yet it carries tremendous weight. This document represents a means to improve our lives. That’s why the concept of improving our lives should be a basic tenet of the values of any company. The corporation exists so we can all learn and grow.
4. No Titles: We do not have titles in our company unless we travel to Asia, and even then we only implement them only because it can affect how well we do business there. Every employee in the company is critical to the success of the organization, from the person who makes the sale to the custodian who cleans the restroom. Imagine how unproductive the office would be with filthy restrooms. Every job is important for the enterprise. If it is not, then the job should not exist.
5. Embrace Dynamic Hierarchy: The CEO must set the tone of the culture and understand when to change the direction of the company or offer new products and services. The CEO must “report and be reported to.” If we take the metaphor of a floor full of glass offices—the ideal environment—the CEO would be sitting in the middle, with all the departments working around him or her so everyone’s actions were transparent. But in order to learn, the CEO must also look up, not always down.
6. Liberal Vacation Policy: We had a tacit unlimited vacation policy. It was not published or publicized, but there was flexibility when one needed to take time off. Yet, the concept of “no-vacation policy” generally does not work. It leads to a false feeling of freedom and often backfires. For example, I’ve seen employees not take vacation because they simply did not want to do so. I’ve had to force employees to take vacations in some instances. It’s healthy and productive for employees to take extended breaks. It’s important for mental health and for increased engagement in the firm when they return. On the other hand, in some of these firms, where they promote an “unlimited vacation policy,” it’s dishonest. Employees feel that the pressure to continually work is so great in these firms that when they do go on vacation, they often feel that they won’t have a job when they return. There is one firm that comes to mind whose culture was, “If you don’t work on Saturdays, don’t bother to come in on Sundays.” Awful.
7. Design Warm Office Spaces: Get out of the cookie-cutter cubicles and rectangular office spaces. Design a creative atmosphere where employees can enjoy their surroundings. Work and life must be made to coexist and become almost seamless. In our firm, we created an atmosphere that is akin to someone’s home. When walking into our lobby, it could very well be a living room.
8. Train and Promote from Within: Hire smart, train well, and promote from within. Outsiders who come with ten or twenty years of experience are less likely to fit in with your culture. This is not a rule, however, and sometimes it is necessary to infuse the company with a key hire if you’re certain that they fit into the culture and have skills you need.
9. Zero Tolerance for Office Politics: Jockeying for positions, denigrating others, talking behind people’s back about their work or personal choices. There should be tolerance for mistakes and differences of opinion. However, office politics should be treated with contempt and disdain—no compromises, zero tolerance. Office politics are cancerous and, unless discovered and destroyed quickly, they will spread and annihilate your company. As a strong leader, you must be aware of any office politics by staying close to your employees.
10. Reinvent Your Company: Look to reinvent your company constantly. If there is one aspect of life you can count on, it is change. The world has never been a more rapidly changing environment and it’s changing faster and faster all the time. The speed of business is likely to increase along with technology and global reach. Look at each change as an opportunity to create new products and services to meet the changing environment.
The preceding principles work. Customers will get the service they enjoy and that they rarely get from other firms. Be the only firm in your industry that operates in this fashion, and brand this culture heavily. A strong company culture will create the stability that will improve the lives of everyone in your company. We focused our energy on issues important to our customers and families, on redefining the model to get a better solution, and on living the values set forth earlier. I can do that with confidence because I know that is how we actually work and live.
In the end, all of this translates into good business. Employees who are happy are better at their jobs. And if they’re better at their jobs, they beat the competition and the company wins—and the money always follows. So tell me what you remember about that great company you worked for.
The Five Buckets of Productivity
Each of the following five buckets represent the opportunity to improve your firm. In many cases, your firm is already performing well in some buckets; in others, there is work to be done. Each of these has a process that will take time to engage and employ. Begin each in one department or division of the company as a beta and expand from there.
The following chapters will address each of these buckets in detail. As you read through them, you’ll determine whether you want to make the associated changes in your own company. The goal is to get 30 hours out of every day. By the end of this book, you’ll see how that’s possible and how much additional revenue your employees will generate for the company.
About Remote Work
When it comes to productivity, many CEOs believe that everyone must be working in the same room at the same time to do well. And while the principle sounds like a solid one—people working together are more productive than those working alone—it’s not necessarily an accurate one. In fact, there is evidence that working outside of the office, be it from home or elsewhere, can actually boost productivity by quite a bit. The 2020 pandemic teaches us a lot about remote work productivity. There’s no question that working remotely can be highly productive. With no commuting, the company saves money on real estate because the firm doesn’t need the same amount of office space anymore. But there’s the other side of the coin as well. Not everybody can work well remotely. Many have families with young children; dogs that will bark in the background during important meetings; live in a small apartments or living space with roommates who also have to work remotely, sometimes at a kitchen table or on the couch with no separate home office. It takes a certain amount of training to be able to work well remotely. Before you embark on developing a company policy, it’s important to understand all the consequences that come with working remotely. For example, does it mean working from home or working from anywhere? It most likely means working from anywhere, which brings up dozens of questions to ask in advance. If your employees work from anywhere and then relocate to another country, there are all kinds of visa and immigration issues the firm will need to address. Therefore, it’s important that the employee asks for the ability to work from anywhere before you make a blanket statement that you agree to the policy. Global Tax Network (GTN) has a wonderful work-from-anywhere checklist to help you identify potential immigration and tax issues.¹
The Littler law firm has a comprehensive questionnaire that is helpful, which you can view on their website.
Don’t take this topic lightly. Employment law and taxation can bite you very hard in the behind if you don’t do your due diligence before announcing that employees can work remotely. After considering the above first, let’s take a look at why remote work should be an important part of your business strategy along with some tips to keep your employees engaged.
Do Not Fight Change
One major outcome of the 2020 pandemic is a veritable revolution in the way the business industry operates. Many organizations simply weren’t ready and able to adapt to the changes that COVID-19 wrought in the workplace. This is understandable to a certain extent. After all, who would have predicted that the world would change so dramatically and so quickly into one where working from home was mandatory?
However, it’s important to take the time now to recognize the difficulties your business faced as the demand to be flexible and to adapt your business operations around an immovable barrier increased. For many, one of the major takeaways from the surge in work-at-home positions will be that their infrastructure is nowhere near modern and mobile enough to respond to sudden change.
Many business owners and CEOs might be reading this and assuming that the pandemic was a once-in-a-lifetime issue and that once it fades, they won’t have to worry about supporting working from home on any significant level. This is a poor take for many reasons. As we’ll discuss, remote work is actually a great tool for job satisfaction, retention, and engagement. Beyond that, however, the refusal to adapt to today’s societal trends is a surefire way to fail.
The pandemic might have been unforeseen, but that doesn’t mean that the light it is shining upon remote work and digital workplaces is less valid. Industry acceptance of remote positions has been increasing for years, and it is unlikely that will change anytime soon. The best course of action is to take a hard look at your recovery plans and how they function in reality. This is a great time to assess your goals as a business and how your organization and interpretation of modern business operations impacts your ability to sink or swim.
Radical change might not be easy, but as COVID-19 has illustrated, it is a necessity for many to keep their business healthy and their employees engaged and productive.
Working from Home Boosts Job Satisfaction and Employee Retention
While remote work might have become the norm almost overnight, it’s important to take a look at how that change has impacted employees and their views about their position and how they work on a daily basis.
One survey of company managers found that 78 percent of respondents stated that offering telecommuting and flexible schedules for the foreseeable future is one of their most effective options to boost employee retention that doesn’t involve increased monetary compensation.²
Supporting these findings is a global workplace study of more than 15,000 individuals located in more than 100 nations across the world.
The research found that 80 percent of respondents would opt for a position with flexible scheduling and remote work options over one without when deciding between multiple employment offers.³ That same study found that 32 percent of respondents believed that regular remote work options would improve their satisfaction more than a higher role in the organization.
Further underlining the importance of flexible work options, a Gallup poll found that 54 percent of the office workers surveyed would quit their job in favor of another that offered remote work opportunities.4 And, perhaps even more interesting, one study found that two-thirds of the respondents said they would quit their job if their newfound flexible working options were revoked.5 Yet another study found that employees who work from home tend to put in more hours but feel better about their jobs despite it.6
Having an engaged employee is vital to productivity. Workers who are present but not engaged accomplish relatively little, and what they do manage to finish is generally poorer in quality than that of employees who are actively engaged with their work. With this in mind, according to the same Gallup poll previously referenced, it’s important to note that remote working, even if not every day, has been shown to significantly increase engagement among employees.7
Employees who work from home are, in general, more likely to pick a time and place to work that suits their specific needs. For some, that might mean sitting in a completely silent room and focusing on nothing but their keyboard, a scenario rarely present in today’s bustling workplaces. Others might find that a room with inspiring décor is the best option to truly raise their morale. Whatever their choice, remote workers are more likely to give themselves the surroundings and circumstances most conducive to their engagement and success than they would if they were working from a physical office.
Working remotely is a great way to boost employee productivity. And that’s the goal at the end of the day, right? It was previously assumed that working from home might mean that remote workers would face more distractions than their in-office counterparts, but current research says that’s not the case.
One survey found that employees working from home were 20 to 25 percent more productive than their coworkers working in the office.8 Another found that 75 percent of respondents said they worked from home specifically because there were fewer distractions, enabling them to truly focus on their work.9 In fact, research as far back as 2012 showed that remote work might very well be the key to optimal worker productivity.10
Productivity and Engagement Tips
Finally, let’s take a look at how you can best engage remote workers, utilize all the benefits that working from home gives them, and channel that into increased productivity. The first thing to keep in mind is that while the location of work might have changed, the need for individual attention has not. Reach out to your employees and find out what their work environment is like at home as well as the challenges they might be facing. Understanding their situation is a good way to adapt tasks and deadlines to play to their strengths.11
Another tip to boost employee engagement while working remotely is to host a webinar or send out detailed instructions about how to use video equipment and other online work tools. Do this even for things that seem obvious. You never know how many employees cope well with technology in the office but have little idea how to access or engage with anything outside of that scope.12 Again, keep your workers’ strengths and potential weaknesses in mind and take action to avoid potential pitfalls. Making their day as smooth and straightforward as possible will ensure that their attention remains fully on their work.
- Global Tax Network US, L., 2020. Work Anywhere Checklist For Your Mobility Program. [online] Info.gtn.com. Available at: https://info.gtn.com/work-anywhere-checklist-for-your-mobility-program
- Crain’s New York Business. 2019. Work-Life Integration: The Customized Approach. [online] Available at:
- Iwgplc.com. 2020. IWG Global Workspace Survey – Flexible Working – IWG Plc. [online] Available at:
- Hickman, A. and Robison, J., 2020. Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. [online] Gallup.com. Available at:
- 2019. Workplace Survey Results 2019. [ebook] Available at:
- Owllabs.com. 2019. 2019 State Of Remote Work Report. [online] Available at:
- Hickman, A. and Robison, J., 2020. Is Working Remotely Effective? Gallup Research Says Yes. [online] Gallup.com. Available at:
- Wilkie, D., 2019. Why Are Companies Ending Remote Work?. [online] SHRM. Available at:
- Simovic, D., 2019. The Ultimate List Of Remote Work Statistics – 2020 Edition. [online] SmallBizGenius. Available at:
- O’Toole, K., 2012. Researchers: Flexibility May Be The Key To Increased Productivity. [online] Stanford Graduate School of Business. Available at:
- Robison, J., 2020. COVID-19 Has My Teams Working Remotely: A Guide For Leaders. [online] Gallup.com. Available at:
- Matuson, R., 2020. How Leaders Can Keep Remote Employees Engaged And Productive During Tumultuous Times. [online] Forbes. Available at: