There are countless statistics claiming that remote employee productivity is greater than its in-office alternative. For example, one study published not long into the pandemic claimed as much as a 47% increase in productivity thanks to remote work.
The question is, how do you know that your team has increased their productivity by half? How can you measure the effectiveness of a remote team — at least, how can you do so without becoming an invasive, micromanaging boss?
If you’re interested in monitoring your team’s productivity without compromising their independence and empowerment, here are some tips to help you out.
1. Set Clear Expectations
Expectations are key. If you don’t know what you’re expecting, you can’t judge if something is productive. In a workspace as asynchronous as remote work, personal interactions are few and far between. In that setting, expectations take the place of overseeing an in-office workforce.
Even when you’re operating in person, it’s essential that you communicate how you expect a project or activity to go. If you’re in the same physical space, though, you have the opportunity to update, add to, and even tweak expectations as you go along.
When your workers are laboring in isolation, they often complete a project — or at least put significant effort into it — before their productivity is ever considered. As global HR solution Remote points out, clear, detailed expectations set from the beginning of a project are necessary when managing remote teams. It ensures that everyone starts on the same page and is oriented toward the same end goal.
2. Utilize OKRs
There are many ways to break down expectations. Standard options include setting clear objectives and utilizing KPIs (key performance indicators) to make productivity measurable.
However, one of the best productivity measurement tools out there is OKRs. OKRs (which stand for “objectives and key results”) is a goal-setting methodology that approaches productivity from a holistic perspective. Rather than just saying, “There’s the finish line. Find a way to get there!” OKRs consider both the final objective that you’re working toward and the critical results required to accomplish it. In essence, this brings both goals and milestones together into one shiny package.
OKRs are powerful productivity motivators. They tie goals to day-to-day work and make it much easier to evaluate if work is getting done. For example, if you just set a goal, you may have to wait days or even weeks to see if an employee has accomplished that task on time. With OKRs, you can measure results as you go along.
3. Track Outcomes
It’s tempting to value time over output. That is always a bad idea when remote work is involved. Even if you ask your employees to report time spent working “on the honor system,” you still don’t know what that time looks like. Instead, focus on the deliverables that come from your employees’ overtime.
Every project has deliverables. Those might be a clear, defined item, such as a piece of content or a prototype of a new piece of hardware. However, it could also come from the work process itself. For instance, if you train someone for a position, the deliverable manifests through the learning experience.
Regardless of the project at hand, it’s important to identify the deliverables involved. This gives you an objective way to measure the success or failure of something. For example, you can consider the outcome of an employee’s work, compare it to the expectation (which should be clearly defined), and then decide if they are productive.
4. Use Employee Feedback
Internal feedback is an invaluable resource. Whether it’s recurring questionnaires, real-time opinions, or exit interviews, receiving input from your team can be a powerful refining tool.
It can also indirectly help with tracking productivity, as well. Have your employees fill out surveys asking for honest, anonymous feedback about their coworkers from time to time. This isn’t an opportunity for employees to snitch on one another. On the contrary, make sure to provide questions that don’t evoke charged responses.
For instance, don’t include a question like “Is employee X productive?” Instead, try phrasing the inquiry, “What are one strength and one weakness of employee X?”
This won’t give you a direct way to measure productivity. Nevertheless, it can yield valuable insight into each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, including how productive they are as seen by their coworkers.
5. Ask for Asynchronous Updates
Finally, You can also ask employees to track their own productivity when they’re on their own. Again, never underestimate the power of talking to your employees directly. As you define objectives and OKRs, ask your team to measure how they’re doing every few days or at the end of the week.
Of course, they aren’t machines that will objectively assess their own productivity, but posing the question can lead to insightful conversations. Even if this leads to biased data, it can have a much more powerful indirect impact on productivity.
Asking your staff to evaluate their own output regularly forces them to remain aware of themselves. This can help them stay motivated and focused on KPIs, OKRs, milestones, and whatever other measurable objectives you might use.
It can be an empowering activity when you engage in regular conversations with each employee to assess their effectiveness together. You’re turning the “gotcha” element of the productivity question into a positive, joint endeavor. You’re inviting them into the process of helping them be more productive. But, of course, having open and honest discussions about productivity is easier if you have measurable OKRs and clear expectations in place.
Remote work is here to stay. This makes it imperative to find ways to measure remote employee productivity without overstepping as a manager. Remember, micromanaging often tends to do more harm than good.
Instead, use the tips above to quietly assess your team’s productivity over time. That way, you can identify areas that need to be addressed without squelching existing productivity through an overly hands-on approach.
Image Credit: Ivan Samkov; Pexels; Thank you!