How to Measure Productivity While Employees Work From Home During COVID- 19

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We know that many people are finding themselves leading a remote team for the first time, as the global spread of Covid-19 means more people are working from home than ever before. This can be a hard transition to make for managers who are used to having their team all in one place. It’s easy to measure employee productivity when you can look out of your office door or bob your head above your cubicle and see what everyone is doing. A good manager can pick up on body language alone whether someone is making progress or struggling – but how does that translate to virtual teams? Good question. Here’s what we’ve learned about remote employee monitoring.

It’s All About Trust

You know how communication is harder when it’s written because you don’t get all the social cues to help you understand the subtler parts of communication like sarcasm? Trust in remote teams is a bit like that.

It’s easy to trust your team when you see them every day, and you can see that they are at their desks working. But what about when they’re at home? Are they really working, or are they just watching the latest episode of Pickard on Amazon Prime?

Here’s the thing: A good worker is a good worker, no matter where they are working. If you know that your team usually performs well, there’s no reason to expect they’re going to suddenly become useless freeloaders just because they’re working from home. Trust them – and more importantly, trust yourself that you made the right decision when you hired them.

We’ve previously written about what trust looks like in a remote team, but here’s the gist: The best thing you can do to promote trust with your remote team is to be transparent. Keep them up to date with how things are going and expect regular updates from them too.

We love the idea of pairing the Agile Remote Development Methodology with remote working, particularly because the daily stand-up gives your team a chance to share what they’ve achieved and ask for help on what they’re stuck on. That all helps to promote trust.

Checklist with pink highlighter.

Organization is key

One way to make sure that you’re on top of progress for your project is to get organized. One of the most effective measures for managing work from home employees is on what they deliver. But in order to accurately measure that, you need to know what your expectations are.

If you don’t already have a team task management solution, now’s a good time to get one. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best solutions here, but you’ll need to try on a few for size before you find the right one for you.

These tools let you assign tasks, let your team discuss them, and let you know how far along they are with them. You can even automate tasks, so that when one step is done, and it’s time to hand over to someone else, they get the notification immediately.

Tools to Measure Employees Productivity

There are plenty of remote employee time tracking tools, but we’d urge caution before you use them – for two reasons:

  • The first is that one of the benefits of remote work is that your staff can work when they’re most productive and that might not be 9-5. Don’t measure presenteeism, work done at 4 am is as valid as work done in regular office hours.
  • Secondly, it pays to get away from your desk sometimes. Getting outside, for example, has huge benefits for creativity. Remote working gives your staff the freedom to work where they work best too, and that might be away from the screen, hacking at weeds in the garden until the solution they’re looking for presents itself.

That said, there is some remote work monitoring software that passes the DistantJob micro-managing sniff test:

  • IDoneThis – this tool is like an asynchronous daily stand up, allowing your team to let you know if a task is done, a goal, or if they’re blocked. You can see at a glance what’s going on and step in on those blockages.
  • Monday.com – you’ve probably seen adverts for this tool on the web, as they’re promoting quite hard at the moment. The beauty of Monday.com is the simple user interface that gives you a quick overview of where things are.
  • Toggl – is a time tracking app that lets your employees say what they’re working on at any given time. They select the project, hit ‘start’ and the timer starts running until they’re done.
  • Timely – gets around one of the big drawbacks of asking staff to account for all their time; the admin burden. Instead, a time monitoring tool works in the background making note of what your team is looking at. Then they can review their day and assign slots of work to different projects. It’s an interim measure between pure trust and looking over their shoulder.

There are other tools out there that are much more ‘big brother’ including tools that let you view your remote worker’s screens without them knowing. But let’s face it, that’s creepy. You wouldn’t use binoculars to view a team member’s screen from a distance (we hope) so don’t do it virtually.

Encourage communication

One adjustment that you will need to make when managing remote teams is in your communication. We advise managers who are new to remote teams to overcommunicate, because remote work can be isolating, and you don’t want your team to feel overlooked. Comments on tasks aren’t enough; try and check-in via chat or vide on a daily basis to touch base and see how they’re doing.

But don’t micromanage. Just don’t. We know it can be tempting to check up, but if you do that you will do two things; firstly you will keep interrupting your team when they’re trying to do their job, and secondly you’ll make them feel that they’re not trusted.

Looking to Hire?

If you love the idea of remote teams, and you’re looking to hire some new remote technical talent, then we can help! DistantJob is a specialist recruitment agency; we only place remote developers and other techies, and we’ve developed systems to make sure that the candidates you get are not only talented but remote ready. If this sounds like what you need, get in touch today!

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Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon

Sarah Dixon is a remote work advocate and thought leader and a specialist in persuasive writing. She has an MA in Creative Fiction, is a children's author, and a writer of award-winning short stories.