The Work Day is Changing: 7 Tips to Keep Productivity Up

A recent PRC study is defining the new work day. But how can HR managers and employers keep up?

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Improve productivity and reduce burnout by following these 7 steps

The pandemic has fueled a complete reinvention of the workplace. Over the manner of months, remote work and flexible hours bulldozed the traditional office space. But what was the impact, when all is said and done?

A recent study from the Prodoscore Research Council (PRC) offers some answers. This group surveyed nearly 7,000 employees and analyzed over 900,000 data points to complete their report.

Here’s what they found.

Working from home is productive

When researchers compared 2020 to 2019, productivity went up 207.6% overall.
Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, productivity in the workplace actually increased. When researchers compared 2020 to 2019, productivity went up 207.6% overall. But that wasn’t all. The report also pinned down the specifics of employee productivity:

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the most productive days of the week, in that order
  • Workers started nearly 40 minutes early and ended their day 45 minutes later
  • The busiest time for employees is between 11 am to 12 pm
  • Employees attend 26% more meetings in 2020, but time spent in meetings per day knocked off an entire hour

All in all, the report highlights the benefits of evolving nature of work. But it’s not all daisies. With more and more workers from home, there are also potential downsides.

Difficulties for remote workers

Two out of five remote workers admit that their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic started, according to Qualtrics. The reason? Stress and anxiety about COVID-19, financial stressors, loneliness, and job security, among others. In a Prudential study, 55% of respondents said they felt less connected to their company.

Isolation, Zoom fatigue, and uncertainty can all lead to employee burnout. When working with a remote team, communication is more important than ever to ensure both project completion and employee mental health.

But despite all of these potential negatives, there are ways employers and HR managers can reduce the burden on employees and help their team stay focused. Whether you hire a Head of Remote Work or plan to tackle it alone, creating a solid work-from-home plan is critical to reduce burnout and keep productivity up.

7 ways to prevent employee burnout

When looking at designing a remote work strategy, it can help to understand why workers burn out. Nina Quist from Eletive, suggests it all has to do with communication.

“I would say unclear expectations and goals are a significant stress factor in many organizations,” Quist said. “A general lack of communication and feedback can easily create a void and a feeling of insecurity.”

Low or unclear communication and result in low engagement and exhaustion for employees, with slipping productivity for employers.

To prevent burnout, HR and managers can take the following steps to keep employees engaged:

1. Set clear working hours

29% of employees believe that working long hours and weekends are a primary driver of burnout.
According to a Deloitte survey, 29% of employees believe that working long hours and weekends are a primary driver of burnout. Despite the fact that 87% of respondents in the same study said they are passionate about their job, it’s clear that no one wants to work all the time.

In fact, research suggests that employee productivity may only last about 3 hours a day! So setting the rights hours can feel crucial.

There’s a delicate balance between flexible work and setting clear work time expectations. Depending on your staff, it may be best to implement a weekly hours-worked policy. This allows your individual members to set times that work for them, while at the same time giving them a clear benchmark.

And according to the PRC study, most employees are sticking close to regular work hours. Just make sure that employees understand they can be flexible — so long as they get their work done.

2. Keep communication open

Another aspect to look at is the best communication methods for your staff. Large teams may benefit from Slack or Workcamp, or another large chatroom. Smaller teams might prefer a What’s App group or Trello for project management. In fact, email has been shown to be a low performer when it comes to communication in comparison to chats and video.

No matter what specific technologies you use, managers can improve communication by creating an official online channel and assuring employees that they can always ask for clarification.

3. Promote self-care and wellness

It can also be helpful to encourage self-care and wellness for employees. When working from home, it can be difficult to find time to exercise and eat well. But health is just as important outside the office as it is inside.

There are many creatives and easy-to-implement initiatives you can try if you want to promote wellness among your employees. Nutrition or walking challenges and healthy virtual lunches are just some examples.

4. Provide team-building activities

Isolation is a very real consideration when it comes to remote work. Research from Buffer and AngelList reveals 20% of workers are lonely when working from home. One of the benefits of the office is fostering relationships between employees. But when there are just Zoom meetings, it can be difficult for some employees to adjust.

The good news is, team-building activities can help your employees maintain their need for close connections and help them take productive breaks.

5. Encourage employees to take breaks

Speaking of breaks, your employees should take them. In addition to working hours, how employees structure their time affects their productivity the most. The perfect ratio of work is 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of break, according to Draugeim Study.

It’s important to make it clear that breaks are accepted and encouraged for employees to take breaks in between work sessions.

How employees structure their time affects their productivity the most. The perfect ratio of work is 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of break.

6. Set clear expectations

When assigning tasks, employees understand what is expected of them. This can mean assuming low-context situations and sending detailed and precise objectives — whether through an email or a Zoom meeting.

Online tools can help you organize tasks, but you’ll need regular communication with employees to ensure that their top-level goals are clear. This can be difficult to accomplish even in a traditional office setting, and no matter your workplace situation, you’ll want to be open to adjustments.

Ensuring that employees understand not only their responsibility but also what resources are available can better help them achieve their goals without confusion.

7. Ask for feedback

One of the most important things HR and managers can do is ask for feedback. In fact, 89% of HR leaders recognize that ongoing peer feedback and check-ins are essential.

“When working remotely, it becomes difficult for managers to spot early signs of burnout in team members,” says Quist. “It can help to have a systematic approach for gathering feedback and safe channels for sharing concerns.”

Whether you choose quick one-on-one sessions with employees or use a survey pulse tool, getting quality feedback from employees is essential to understanding their current stressors and goals.

Check out our People Ops Podcast episode “Has the pandemic permanently changed small business?”

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