There’s been a lot of buzz about remote working during this time of the coronavirus—but working-from-home certainly isn’t new. In fact, three years ago, FlexJobs reported about 4 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half of the time. By this time, we all know remote work boosts productivity, increases employee morale, and fosters both mental and physical wellness.
About 28% of the U.S. workforce was forced to work from home because of COVID-19, according to a recent survey from QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets). And for around 40% of them—remote working was a new and not necessarily smooth experience. In fact, they report, surprisingly, that their productivity has decreased. The survey shows these workers struggled with “makeshift office spaces” and found it hard to balance their work and personal responsibilities. Fortunately, 33% say they’re more productive. The rest say their productivity is the same.
The survey shows that the respondents’ ages or the number of adults or children in the households didn’t impact productivity. The culprit in these cases seemed to be hours spent on the job—40% say they’re working fewer hours per week from home. Of those, most say they’re working between 1-10 fewer hours.
On the other hand, 28% who are working from home because of COVID-19, say they’re working a lot more—33% say they’re putting in 16 more hours per week. There’s a big difference between salaried employees, who say their work hours haven’t changed and hourly workers—48% of whom are working fewer hours a week.
If your staff’s productivity seems to be lagging—or yours is—here’s some advice about how you and they can be more productive working from home.
1. Dedicated workspace
Even the best of us can get distracted when working from home. If possible, encourage them to create a dedicated workspace. According to the TSheets survey, 57% of respondents didn’t have a dedicated workspace in their homes or had to create room for another household member. And 55% of workers say they struggle with personal distractions throughout the day.
You can understand why productivity is lagging when 28% of workers have to work from their living rooms. Others have carved out space in their bedrooms, guest bedrooms, or at the kitchen table. A smaller percentage is working from their garage or other storage room.
Sometimes people need a physical reminder they’re going to work. Creating a dedicated workspace helps provide that “break.”
Even if a whole room is not available, try to set aside part of a room, or just a table that’s just used for work. TSheets recommends you surround that space with things that tell your brain “this is a place for work.”
Making sure you and your staff have the right equipment is essential to encouraging productivity.
It’s likely most of your staff will be working from laptops, which can be a back killer. Accessories like monitor or laptop risers and an ergonomic chair can make a big difference.
Ask your team what they need—40% of workers surveyed say their employers are compensating them for at least some workspace equipment.
2. Embrace virtual communication
Obviously, safer-at-home work policies cut down on the number of meeting workers are having. But while nearly 40% of employees say they’re attending fewer meetings, over 50% say they’re sending more emails and talking more on the phone. This has improved communication for 27% of workers.
Some other ways to encourage team communication:
- Hold virtual hangouts. Catch up with your team by scheduling video conferences. Carve out some time for personal talk during these meetings. So many people are missing the personal relationships they have with coworkers.
- Hang out in a virtual water cooler. You can expand on that idea by starting a dedicated chat channel or video conference link that’s live all day. Employees can pop in and out of these channels as time permits.
- Create virtual challenges. Challenge your team to post photos of their pets, share their best work-from-home tips, or collaborate on a team playlist.
Participating in virtual communications can foster team morale and ward off feelings of disconnection or loneliness.
3. Staying healthy
Working from home during the coronavirus comes with its share of challenges—30% of employees feel burnt out and 29% say their sleep patterns are disrupted.
Here are a few tips to help you and your stay healthy:
- Go outside. Just taking a short walk can refresh our brains.
- Get your blood pumping. A friend of mine jumps rope for 10 minutes every afternoon. Another does a 10-minute ab workout. Both say it helps them stay positive and focused.
4. Talk about the future of work
Many states are letting people come back to offices; however, a lot of employers decided to maintain virtual working for several more months, at least. The survey shows that 30% of workers think their employers will be more open to work-from-home options once safer-from-home policies are lifted. And many business experts predict the future of remote work is now.
If you are thinking of becoming a virtual business permanently (it can save you a fair amount of money spent on overhead), this survey shows at least some members of your staff might be a little reluctant to make the switch, while others will embrace it. The only way to know is to talk to them. Perhaps you can create a hybrid workstyle or find solutions for those who find their productivity lagging.