Learning & Development, Talent

How to Effectively Measure Remote Worker Productivity

One of the most fundamental changes ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic has been more economic than medical: the shift from in-office to remote work for millions of Americans.

productivity
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While many employees may be thrilled by the newfound convenience and relative freedom afforded by remote work, employers and managers are understandably concerned about the ability to adequately supervise staff and monitor productivity.

In this post, we discuss some potential productivity measures that can be used with remote teams.

Tracking Hours

Tracking hours is one of the most straightforward methods of gauging productivity, albeit not always the most meaningful. Something as simple as a log-in/log-out feature can be used by which employees note when they start and stop work, including midday breaks.

Computer Idle Time

Just because employees are logged in on their computer doesn’t mean they’re actually working. What’s to stop them from logging in and then going for a walk or catching a couple extra hours of sleep? Keeping track of computer idle time helps address that concern by tracking how much time is actually spent being active on employees’ machines.

Employee-Reported Activity Tracking

Many companies and some professions already require employees to track time spent on specific activities. For example, law firms often require attorneys to track time spent on specific activities and specific clients down to 6-minute intervals for billing purposes. The same can be done by any organization.

This type of tracking gives greater visibility into what employees are spending their time on compared with simply tracking how often they are idle.

By reviewing employee tracking records, managers could identify potential issues and inefficiencies, such as too much time being spent helping other teammates, attending meetings, or focusing on generally low-value-add activities.

“Out of sight, out of mind” should rarely, if ever, apply to managing staff. Just because teams aren’t physically in the office when they’re working from home doesn’t mean managers have to stay blind as to their productivity.

There are plenty of methods available for managers to keep an eye on productivity. Now we’ll talk about what to monitor to make sure those productivity metrics are pertinent.

Measuring Time Is Not the Same as Measuring Productivity

Unfortunately, many managers struggle to come up with useful tools and strategies to measure productivity. Tracking the number of hours logged in to a company system, or idle time, and employee-reported task tracking are methods that can be used to track time, but they aren’t necessarily the best tools to track productivity.

Does a manager really care if an employee spends 60 hours on a task in a week if that task isn’t completed? Does the manager care if an employee is always logging in early and working late if the employee continues to miss key deadlines?

Instead of simply tracking time spent, we suggest focusing the key priorities employees are tasked with and tracking their progress toward and the completion of those priorities over time.

Employees’ self-reporting time spent on specific activities can help managers review and restructure job responsibilities in case goals are not being achieved.

A Focus on Productivity

For example, say one team member’s responsibility is to manage the rollout for a revenue-generating application, and key milestones and deadlines are getting missed. Even though the employee is putting in a lot of hours, the manager should realize there is a productivity problem. The issue may not be a matter of the overall amount of time worked but rather the employee’s inability to focus on the most important priorities.

By looking at self-reported time spent on different activities, the manager might be able to identify activities that are not as valuable or even necessary and transfer those to another team member or eliminate them entirely.

Productivity tracking has gained increased attention with the widespread shift to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, many employers focus on the wrong measures of productivity.

It’s essential that organizations think carefully about what measures they track before blindly using them as metrics for true value-added productivity.