Productivity: Future Considerations in the Workplace
If we’ve learned anything in the past eighteen months, it was mainly learning to do things in ways that we’ve never encountered before. Every workplace has been forced to adapt to new ways of doing business. While some organizations have mandated their employees to work remotely; other workplaces such as retail stores and restaurants have had to face shutdowns, restrictions on service offerings, increased health and safety guidelines, and stringent hygiene requirements.
That being said, what has this meant to an organization’s bottom line? It is no secret that productivity has been impacted through lock downs with businesses such as restaurants and small retail facing harsh economic realities. Even with government assisted programs such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), some organizations have been unable to carry on. Other businesses that offer professional, education, and legal services, etc. have been able to transition their workforce to work remotely. In doing so, this has created new possibilities on how the workplace will function in the future.
Remote, hybrid or working onsite
Thanks to technology, many workplaces have had the ability to shift their workforce to work remotely or in a hybrid model where employees perform part of their duties remotely and onsite. During COVID-19, 60% of employees worked in a hybrid model. As noted in the previous blog, the hybrid model appears to be a preferred method since it provides the opportunity to mix with others in the physical workplace location while also providing work/life balance.
Workers who prefer to work through the hybrid model cite these top reasons:
40% said they can be productive whether working remotely or onsite
83% believe the hybrid model is most ideal for the future of work
42% state they are thriving working in the hybrid environment
Workers who prefer to be onsite cite these top reasons:
27% claim that access to technology is more feasible
25% claim they have better collaboration with co-workers
23% state that their workday onsite has more routine
23% state that they are more visible to their leaders
Workers who prefer to be remote cite these top reasons:
34% claim they feel their remote workplace is safer
32% state they have a better quality of life
31% state they have the freedom to take more breaks from work
30% state they can effectively do their work with the technology and tools provided
28% state that they have a sufficient work-from-home space
Whether your organization is functioning with a workforce that is remote, onsite, or a combination of both; one of the most significant ways to increase productivity in the workplace is through effective communication. Many companies rank communication skills to be twice as important as managerial skills. Why is it so important?
It provides clarity and minimizes confusion
It identifies the purpose
It creates and fosters a positive culture in the organization
It ensures accountability
The benefits of effective communication are that it results in less misunderstanding, a healthy workplace culture, conflict resolution, increased team spirit, increased self-esteem, stronger teamwork, higher employee job satisfaction, and business success.
The most effective communication strategies that increase productivity involve several techniques. Using the right tools and technology such as zoom, teams, etc. encourages two-way communication. This provides the opportunity to involve and empower your team to ask questions and offer feedback. Telling your employees when they are doing a good job frequently (daily if warranted) is also important. Be specific when providing feedback while also providing clear direction and support if improvement is required. Schedule mandatory check-ins with a short agenda to keep things on track as this helps to validate your team members' understanding of what is required of them and/or address any concerns they may have. Organize engaging team building activities as an engaged workforce earns 2.5 times more revenue.
Additionally, other key components that follow are engagement, technology, equipment, and leadership.
Promoting team building exercises can be accomplished online or in person. Some good examples are a trivia event, virtual coffee or chocolate tasting, common thread, etc. Establishing a trivia event will involve putting questions together in a number of categories and assigning employees into specific teams. For remote workers, having a virtual coffee or chocolate tasing would involve sending the kits to your team member’s homes ahead of time. Of course, that would not be necessary if your team is onsite. For the common thread, once you have assigned up to 4 members per team, you request that they take up to 30 minutes to find five things they all have in common. These are only some examples but there are many more here.
Empowering your team members to provide feedback and insight regarding daily tasks, guidelines, and process improvements also makes them feel that they are valued contributors to your organization. This can be achieved through employee engagement surveys, skip level meetings, a suggestion box, a group feedback committee, and joint health and safety committee. It is important to ensure that actions are taken based on the feedback provided. While not every suggestion is actionable, it still needs to be addressed on why it cannot be actioned or what can be accomplished instead.
Technology and Equipment
Reliable technology is a must in keeping your employees productive. Ensuring that your team members have the right computer hardware and software, access to your organization’s data bases, files, etc. is essential. It is equally important that your team members have access to reliable internet streaming. Anytime there is a technical or accessibility issue, it will slow down your team member’s ability to do their jobs effectively.
Equipment is also important as your team members will need a work area that is conducive to working in a productive manner. This includes working cameras, microphones, phones, desks, and chairs. When working remotely, designating a quiet space with minimal distractions is also a must. If you are providing the equipment to your team members and/or they are using some of their own items, it is imperative to have this outlined in an agreement.
As many of the above factors have identified, effective leaders inspire their team members to do their best work while clearly articulating the organization’s goals and vision for the future. They are accountable and cultivate a culture of accountability, trust, and transparency. This results in team members who trust each other with a common goal in mind. Strong leaders also listen well, foster an environment of continuous growth and learning, are not afraid to ask for help, and admit when they make a mistake.
Ultimately, the way organizations operate will never be the same. There is no 'one size fits all' solution and each organization needs to decide which model works best for them and their employees. Being adaptable, flexible, and forward thinking will go a long way to ensuring success. Whether the workforce is remote, onsite or hybrid; ensuring effective communication, engagement, and leadership will promote a healthy and productive workplace culture.