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Remote team management: How to prioritise employee productivity and workplace wellbeing

This article is part of a larger remote work series that focuses on best practices for implementing and managing a hybrid workforce.

Enabling employees to work from home has many benefits for organisations—increased productivity, reduced operational costs and higher staff retention, just to name a few. However, managing a hybrid workforce also comes with its challenges, including access to information, accountability, social isolation and at-home distractions.

While it may seem instinctive at times to only focus on solutions that undoubtedly boost productivity, workplace wellbeing can also have a significant impact on your team’s effectiveness. Finding solutions that encourage both productivity and wellbeing is guaranteed to be more effective than only focusing on the one.

The role of wellbeing in employee productivity

Employee health and wellbeing is shown to have an impact on productivity in three key areas: absenteeism, presenteeism and employee engagement. Absenteeism is estimated to cost the Australian economy $44 billion each year, or $3608 per worker, while presenteeism—when an employee comes to work sick—costs $35 billion annually in lost productivity.

Almost 60 percent of workers who are experiencing some impact to their health and wellbeing reported being less productive at work. Engagement levels for these employees are also affected. In fact, those who attend work when sick are less engaged overall than those who take leave when sick, despite working less.

Mental health has also been particularly linked to productivity. A person’s mental wellbeing can even have an impact on those around them, potentially affecting the whole team’s productivity if someone is experiencing poor mental health.

Clearly, employee health and wellbeing has an impact on productivity. So how do you prioritise both wellbeing and productivity when managing a hybrid workforce?

1. Establish expectations

Establishing expectations for teams working from home is crucial both for ensuring that work gets done on time and for reducing work-related stress. Creating a work-from-home policy that outlines these expectations, such as flexible work times, communication methods, collaboration tools, reporting structures and work processes, will help ensure that everyone is on the same page.

However, while a work-from-home policy is definitely the place to start, you should also consider the personal circumstances of your individual employees, particularly during enforced remote working periods, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Working parents may need more flexibility than others at this time, while employees living by themselves may benefit from more face-to-face contact to combat loneliness.

2. Schedule daily check-ins

Daily check-ins with your remote team have the double benefit of establishing work goals for the day and countering social isolation. Best done in the morning, you can use these check-ins to ask how team members are going with remote work, maintain a sense of community and refocus on key priorities.

3. Implement collaboration tools

Your remote team’s collaborative productivity is only as good as the tools you give them. Creating shared workspaces through Enterprise Content Management and Document Management Systems will enable your team to work more efficiently through centralised data and documents, streamlined workflows, task automation and improved data accuracy.

Other collaboration tools for remote teams include to-do list apps, scanning apps, e-signature tools, and instant message and video conferencing platforms. Different tools will benefit different teams, so it’s worth doing your research and talking to experts about what will suit your organisation best, as well as asking for feedback from your team on what works for them.

4. Trust your team

If you can’t trust your team, then remote working is no longer effective. Not only will you be spending excessive energy micromanaging and worrying about whether work is being done, but your employees will also feel the added stress of being checked on constantly, which will affect their productivity, which will make you worry more… The cycle is vicious and unhelpful for all parties.

Some of your concerns can be allayed by setting expectations around communication—instant messages require a quick response, emails can be responded to within four hours, let the team know when you’re going on ‘do not disturb’ for a few hours—but you also just need to trust your people. If they got the work done in the office, trust that they can get the work done at home.

5. Provide opportunities for social interaction

Providing your employees with opportunities to talk with each other about non-work topics is crucial for countering feelings of loneliness and creating a cohesive team. This is particularly important when workers have been abruptly transitioned to working from home.

Allowing time at the beginning of daily check-ins for catching up with one another, particularly after the weekend, can help workers to feel more connected. Other virtual events, such as birthday celebrations, coffee chats, team lunches and after-work drinks can also go a long way to reducing feelings of isolation and increasing belonging.

6. Encourage employees to focus on physical and mental health

Physical and mental health is important for all employees, especially in times of crisis or when remote work has been forced on them suddenly. Encourage your workers to exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep, take regular breaks, maintain a routine, stay connected online and have healthy boundaries between work and home life. If your employees know that their wellbeing is a priority and see you demonstrating this balance in your own life, then they’re more likely to follow your example.

7. Offer encouragement and support

Working from home can be a struggle for some, particularly when there are unprecedented outliers, such as a global pandemic. Checking in with your employees to see how they’re coping with remote work and offering a listening ear can help with managing anxiety.

Employees will often look to managers to determine how to react to sudden changes in the work environment. Acknowledging workers’ anxieties and concerns, while also indicating your confidence and trust in their work and the team, will make managing your hybrid workforce significantly easier.

Building a resilient and productive hybrid work environment requires the right hardware, software and processes. Download our Guide to Hybrid Workplace Strategy for a step-by-step strategy for implementing an effective hybrid work model that equips your employees to work anywhere, any time.