3 Steps to Measure Remote Worker Productivity

Here’s how to implement a system for measuring productivity and cultivate a results-driven culture.

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What began as a health and safety measure in early 2021 has blossomed into a permanent workplace model. As we plow through year 2 of the seemingly unending pandemic, remote work isn’t going anywhere. Even with increased vaccination rates across the country, many major corporations are embracing the work-from-home shift.

Although there have been large enterprises throwing their support behind remote work and studies showcasing its benefits, i.e., a 5% boost in productivity, some business leaders still remain wary of the arrangement. Concerns about time theft, distractions, and work environment abound:

  • Do employees work as well from the kitchen table as they do from the office?
  • Are they goofing off on social media?
  • Are their kids interrupting them?
  • Will they cut their work short just because “they can”?

While many of these concerns are natural, the “big brother” mentality isn’t helpful to anyone. In fact, disregarding employee preferences for remote work can cause employers to lose talent. A recent study by McKinsey found that 30% of respondents stated they would leave their jobs if returned to fully on-site work.

To ease worries about productivity, employers need to implement a system for measuring it, one that is transparent and easy to understand.

Measuring remote worker productivity in 3 steps

We hear the word productivity thrown around a lot and we all have our own unique definition of what it means, but how exactly is productivity defined? At the most basic level, productivity is “the effectiveness of productive effort as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.” For a sales role, input and output might look like this:

Input = 8 hours worked

Output = 3 new leads

Productivity = 3 new leads / 8 hours worked

Each industry and business will have different outputs, but essentially, productivity is what comes out of the time employees spend working. To effectively measure output, employers must define key performance indicators (KPIs), use a platform to track deliverables, and communicate regularly with their employees.

To effectively measure output, employers must define key performance indicators (KPIs), use a platform to track deliverables, and communicate regularly with their employees.

Set KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are measurable values that determine how effectively an individual achieves a business objective. One of the most challenging parts of measuring the productivity of your remote workforce is that different roles have different outputs. For example, a KPI for the sales team may be the number of new leads, while the output for the copywriting team may be the number of words written.

KPIs shouldn’t be generalized to your entire organization but rather carefully crafted to represent unique roles. Employers should work closely with their employees to build a  list of KPIs, so they feel the metrics are aligned with what they do. An excellent framework for building KPIs is to use the SMART method:

S: Specific
M: Measurable
A: Achievable
R: Relevant
T: Time-bound

Tracking deliverables

The best way to keep remote workers organized and track deliverables is to use a cloud-based project management software. There are various tools to choose from like Trello, Monday.com, or Asana and they all work similarly. Essentially, most project management software allows you to:

  • Build teams
  • Post project descriptions
  • Post project due dates
  • Assign employees tasks
  • See the progress of tasks
  • Collaborate on tasks
  • Set priorities

Although some businesses opt for time tracking and/or location monitoring software, this can easily creep into a “big brother” type situation, which turns off talent and cultivates a fear-based culture. In lieu of tracking time, tracking results based on KPIs is far more effective for remote workers. Promote a results-oriented culture that rewards employees based on their output. This way, your employees will focus on completing more tasks in the shortest time possible, helping your business thrive.

Communicate

Employers can have rigid KPIs and the best project management software on the planet; however, neither replaces proper communication. As remote teams are physically distant, building a positive company culture and ensuring employee satisfaction is harder. To do this, implement regular one-on-one meetings with employees to:

  • Discuss company priorities and employee workload
  • Answer questions
  • Review their KPIs

Frequent communication will keep employees engaged and inspired to hit their goals because they will need to speak directly to their superiors about them.

In a nutshell

Even though research tells us that productivity doesn’t decline for work-from-home employees, it’s natural to have concerns about how well your employees will do without supervision. Implementing time or location monitoring software can seem like a no-brainer. However, it can quickly backfire if employees feel like they aren’t trusted to do their jobs. Instead of tracking every minute of your employees’ time and their whereabouts, focus on cultivating a results-driven culture that clearly outlines and tracks expectations and output with a healthy dose of communication.

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