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Measuring Productivity in a Remote World
July 26th, 2017

Measuring Productivity in a Remote World

Ian Linton

Remote working offers businesses many important benefits. But how can you measure productivity to ensure it is working for your business?

Remote working offers businesses many important benefits. It allows them to offer employees flexible working arrangements, which can help recruitment and retention. It also allows businesses to set up virtual teams in other locations. This can reduce real estate costs at head office and lets businesses establish a local presence in different markets.

Loss of direct control

While there are great benefits, there are also drawbacks. Managers and supervisors no longer have direct control over their teams, so they cannot monitor or manage their workloads and progress. This can lead to a loss of productivity that affects performance and can delay important projects.

To maintain productivity and gain full benefit from remote working, businesses need to adopt new measures and processes.

Provide productivity tools

The first step is to provide remote workers with tools that let them work productively and stay in contact with colleagues, as well as managers and supervisors. A solution like VoIP, for example, provides remote workers with same communication and collaboration tools that they would use in the office. They can use these tools on home phones or computers, or on any mobile device.

The tools to maintain productivity are available, but the real question is, “are remote workers making the most productive use of them?” To solve this challenge, businesses have taken different approaches to monitoring remote productivity.

Monitor activity

One approach is to use an application known as a user activity monitoring solution. The app runs in the background on the remote worker’s device and records all activities. It can record keystrokes, Internet access, use of company applications and services, and collaboration sessions.

Managers can view the logs from the app on a dashboard. They can compare the activities of individual workers with a baseline or with the performance of other workers. This approach can be useful when measuring the productivity of a group handling similar tasks. However, it may be difficult to compare the performance of groups where individuals are working on different tasks.

Measure results

Other companies take an approach based on results. They set individual goals and hold virtual team meetings so that remote workers can discuss progress, plans any problems that are affecting their productivity. This helps to keep the whole team focused on overall results and allows them to share problems. This approach is based on outcomes, rather than time spent on jobs. Regular meetings with supervisors and managers help keep workers on track and build a trusting relationship.

The results-based measurement is particularly suitable for teams that use agile project management methods. With agile, teams complete small parts of a project and test before moving to the next stage. Any individual productivity problems can affect results for the whole team, so the results-based approach tends to make individuals feel more accountable to their colleagues.

Set target times

Another approach, which combines both outcomes and monitoring, measures productivity against target times for different tasks. A marketing professional, for example, might have time goals for writing a blog, or creating a campaign plan. Monitoring time enables managers to check workers are completing tasks within targets.

Control or trust

Monitoring the productivity of remote workers is achievable. However, businesses are divided on whether to monitor all activities or to trust workers who meet their goals by delivering results.

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