Q. My staff have been working remotely for more than six months now. How can I keep them motivated and productive?
A. Remote working can indeed impact the productivity of employees, but this is subjective and so calls for a subjective approach. I say this because the way one employee has adjusted to homeworking will be different from another.
Employers may therefore want to consider assessing who may be struggling more at home and who is not.
The assessment to determine the former may include those with children, a pre-existing mental health condition (or are predisposed to it), and those who have expressed that they are struggling with the change from working in the office to working at home.
To help keep those in this category motivated and productive in the best way possible, employers should first communicate with them to ascertain how best to support them. Arguably, the most effective way to communicate with these employees is through one-to-one meetings carried out by line managers.
This will be most effective for all employers, big or small, as it allows the employees in this category to be approached individually and be given the freedom to ask questions they have or raise concerns in a safe environment. This will show them that they are still being considered as a valuable member of the organisation, which should in turn increase their level of motivation and productivity.
In England, given that the current government advice is that employees should work from a Covid-secure workplace if they are unable to work from home effectively, it may be the case that if employers struggle with motivation and productivity, employees are brought back into the office. This may be where they can work best. If this is the only viable solution, employers should make sure the workplace environment meets the government’s standards of security to safeguard staff from the coronavirus.
Employers can do this by leaving a distance between staff desks of at least one-metre-plus (two-metres where possible) to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.
Regarding those who may not be directly considered in any assessments by the organisation, it is still advisable to keep in contact with them and open up a reliable means of communicating to allow them to get in touch with somebody if they need any help – setting up an employee assistance programme would be beneficial.
Having a structured target process for those who are directly assessed and those who are not will help towards enhancing productivity. These targets can include putting together individual, weekly goals, that each employee should achieve, which allow for there to be a starting point for determining how productivity can be improved.
Every employee who is working from home should be assisted with planning how best to carry out their day-to-day tasks where necessary – including implementing regular team meetings, so they still feel integrated.