How to help
your employees
be productive
working from home

Author: Rose de Fremery

According to expert insights, remote work is here to stay, but not everyone is fully convinced of its benefits. According to research from Microsoft, 85% of business leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. A mere 12% of them have full confidence that their team is productive in this setting.

How can managers ensure that their remote employees are productive working from home? The path to a more productive remote or hybrid workplace lies in embracing effective strategies for managing remote employees and taking advantage of collaboration tools that can enhance productivity.

Lack of trust can undermine working from home productivity 

While leaders may have misgivings about in-person versus remote work productivity, employees do not. Microsoft's study found that 87% of employees report being productive at work. The rate of double-booked meetings increased by 46% per person in the past year, and 42% of participants multitask during meetings. Yet when managers are unable to walk down the hall and see their employees carrying out these activities, they struggle to believe that their staff are actually engaged and productive.

Compared with in-person managers, hybrid managers are more likely to say that they have difficulty trusting that their employees will do their best work (49% vs. 36%), and these managers report that they have less visibility into the work their employees do (54% vs. 38%). When they lack effective strategies for managing remote employees, many managers resort to installing tracking software on their employees' devices to monitor their remote work productivity.

As Harvard Business Review points out, this approach pits employees and managers against one another and undermines the trust necessary for robust workplace collaboration. It's also an ineffective way to measure or manage remote work productivity.

"Research shows that business leaders are considering a number of solutions, including: “Increased investments in best-of-breed solutions (73%), remote-working hardware (71%), and best-of-suite solutions (68%) are top of mind; however, these investments need to cater to a diverse range of work styles regardless of location,” according to a white paper by Omdia.

Effective strategies for managing remote employees

Overseeing distributed employees can require different strategies than managing staff in person, and navigating the learning curve can take some time. Managing remote employees involves frequent communication, clear expectations, team bonding, supporting employees' professional growth and taking advantage of modern business collaboration tools. 

1. Communicate often and well

To cultivate trust and inspire employee engagement, managers should communicate effectively and often. They should begin by openly acknowledging that remote workers can feel disconnected from the life of the organization, then they can explore ways to bridge this gap via ongoing dialogue with employees. This can look like setting up regular individual and team check-ins using real-time unified communications solutions, for example. Remote workers can use the same tools to join virtual lunch-and-learn sessions or town halls with the CEO.

Managers should also embrace transparency when communicating with remote workers about decisions they have made. A survey from MIT Sloan Management Review found that employees appreciated leaders who explained their decisions and clarified the rationale behind those choices—especially during periods of economic uncertainty.

When employees have more opportunities to share their ideas and voice concerns just as they would in an in-person setting, they are more likely to feel motivated while on the job—and, thus, more productive working from home. With this in mind, consider conducting regular employee surveys to find out which aspects of remote work are going particularly well, which ones are not and how the overall experience could be improved.

2. Set clear expectations

When remote employees don't know what's expected of them, they may become concerned that they're not delivering for their managers. They may feel they're out of sight and out of mind, missing out on opportunities for special assignments or promotions. According to a Pew Research survey on employee views about remote work, one reason why almost one-quarter of workers with jobs that could be done remotely choose to go into their workplace is they feel there are more opportunities for advancement if they work in-office. In a tough economy, they may worry that their positions are no longer secure. You can give your remote employees a better chance to succeed by clearly articulating what you expect them to contribute in their roles and measuring their performance against that standard. As you do, focus on specific deliverables rather than solely the amount of time logged in front of a screen.

3. Encourage team bonding 

Remote work can feel lonely and isolating at times—60% of telework respondents to the Pew Research survey said they felt less connected to co-workers. When your remote employees can't casually mingle with one another in the break room, they miss out on chances to feel connected to the broader organization. You can mitigate this common challenge to remote work productivity and connectivity by creating opportunities for team bonding. Celebrate success often. When you instill a sense of belonging and camaraderie among your employees, you will find them more engaged and enthusiastic about coming to work—whether that commute takes place physically or virtually.

4. Support employees' professional growth 

One powerful strategy for improving productivity, whether in person or in a remote setting, is to support your employees' professional growth. Rather than simply focusing on whether they are productive working from home, take some time to assess the quality of their work. When you have strong performers, praise their successes. Also consider creating professional development plans for each of your remote employees in collaboration with the employees themselves. As you do, the conversations you have with them will shed light on what skills already enable your workers to excel while working remotely and which skills could help them accomplish even more impressive results.

5. Take a fresh look at your technology

According to research from Accenture, over 90% of the employees who benefit from omni-connected experiences say they can be productive working from home, at the office or anywhere. These employees are also 29% more likely to experience a deeper level of trust toward their organization and their team, and their employers observe a 7.4% revenue growth premium per year. The right technology plays a strong role in enabling more effective communication across the board—whether that's between managers and their employees, between different teams or within individual teams.

Many businesses already invested in cloud technology and remote access capabilities in order to help their employees’ transition to remote work during the early stages of the pandemic. If managers haven't yet considered how to build on this existing tool set, they may want to take a fresh look at their remote workplace technology stack. Accenture found that 86% of workers surveyed who claim to experience omni-connection also reported upgrades to their company's technology and skill sets, allowing them to work in new ways.

How business collaboration tools can help 

Modern business collaboration tools, beginning with conferencing services, can help to defeat work uncertainty and allow employees to be more productive working from home. This comes in handy whether they're having their weekly check-in with their manager or attending an important company-wide meeting.

Voice calling also plays a key role in remote work productivity. Verizon Calling with Microsoft Teams and Verizon VoIP for Operator Connect bring external calling to the Teams platform. Verizon is also the first U.S. carrier to offer Teams Phone Mobile, delivered as Verizon Mobile for Microsoft Teams, which enables a complete mobile Teams calling experience. OneTalk gives remote employees a single phone number and allows them to answer it from any device they wish—whether that's a smartphone, a laptop or a desk phone—so they never miss an important call. 

Set your remote employees up for success

Although remote work poses unique challenges for employees and their managers, particularly when managers become concerned that their remote staff isn't fully engaged or when remote employees don't have the support they need to succeed, it is still possible to improve remote work productivity. Frequent communication, clear expectations, team bonding and support for professional growth, particularly when paired with the right digital workplace solutions, can set up your remote employees—and, ultimately, your organization as a whole—for lasting success.

Discover how Verizon's Remote Work Solutions transform your employees' home offices into business-grade workspaces.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.