Helping Remote Workers Be More Productive

The new “normal” for businesses requires us to find as many ways as possible to keep employees, as well as customers, safe. For many companies, this means that open-concept offices, crowded call centers, and shared work spaces need to be re-designed or modified. This has led to the reality that as many of us need to learn how to work remotely.

Working remotely and relying on digital meeting spaces to consult with one another present new challenges. Some of us are more successful at maintaining productivity under these challenging circumstances.

Are you trying to manage a work force that now works independently from one another, and relies on digital meetings to consult/advise one another? We have found that the HELM personality assessments can help identify a person’s strengths and challenges with respect to working independently and remotely.

For example, an individual who has a naturally strong preference for organization and planning is more likely to be able to organize his or her time and activity than a person who would rather “wing it,” taking things as they come. Another person, who is prone to impulsive thoughts and action and does not have a strong preference for organization and structure is likely to bounce from one project to another in a disorganized way.

This means that some people will need more coaching, and more follow-up by their coaches, to keep themselves on track and on task. Some coaching tips might include:

  • have the person designate one specific work area in the remote location, out of line of sight of distractions such as the television and the kitchen;
  • conduct a morning check-in call to share updates about what was accomplished the previous day and what the person’s plan for the day is;
  • make assignments with specific deadlines and concrete action steps, and then follow up on them.

Coaching employees works best when the coach is approachable. Keep lines of communication open so that, if an employee is having problems, he or she will speak up about them.

Group meetings conducted via digital platforms (such as Zoom) need to be carefully organized to be successful.

  • Prepare the meeting agenda ahead of time and share it with all participants.
  • Take a few moments at the beginning of each meeting to be sure that all participants can hear and be heard.
  • If it is a large meeting, consider muting participants until a designated comment/question period for each agenda item.
  • Summarize the results of the meeting for all participants before it ends, and send any written summary and assignments promptly.

Working remotely need not diminish productivity. Its effectiveness is enhanced by paying attention to the needs of remote workers and to thoughtful preparation about how assignments are made and progress is tracked.