One of the biggest concerns during the large-scale shift to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the productivity of companies’ remote staff. For many, their work fears around lost productivity have not materialized. In fact, they’ve found productivity has stayed the same or even increased on average across their organizations.
But those measures often reflect a snapshot in time—perhaps a 1- or 2-month period—and the pandemic has raged on for far longer than most expected. Staff who didn’t skip a beat 2 months into remote work may be succumbing to remote work burnout nearly a year in.
Moreover, productivity measures are often based on a company as a whole and not necessarily individual teams. In this post, we discuss some strategies managers can use to keep track of productivity changes for their remote teams on an ongoing basis.
Before and After Reports
Consider having team members provide a list of activities they plan to complete over some period of time appropriate to their role. This could be on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis or some combination. These reports would provide not only a list of activities employees are working on but also their progress in completing them.
Comparing December 2020 with December 2019 and December 2018 can provide useful insight into changes in productivity since the start of the pandemic. There are some limitations to this approach, however.
For one, managers will need sufficient data on previous years to do such a comparison. If records were not kept or team functions have changed significantly, it will be difficult to conduct a true comparison. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that any productivity measurement should be considered informative but not conclusive in reviewing team productivity.
A very simple strategy for measuring productivity is to simply ask staff how they feel about their productivity. You might think employees would just fudge their responses to avoid getting dinged for a lack of productivity, but managers should be able to trust their teams will act honestly and professionally.
This can be promoted by assuring team members that productivity measures, including self-evaluations, aren’t intended to get anyone in trouble but rather to find ways to help them be more successful.
With the start of distributions of multiple COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic that dominated much of 2020 may have a limited shelf life. However, many companies are still planning to keep staff remote for well into 2021.
Companywide productivity measurements taken months ago may not accurately reflect the situation on the ground in individual departments, meaning it’s important for managers to have tools available to keep track of productivity within their own groups.