The hybrid workplace is growing in popularity, but the move to a more flexible working model is hindered by concerns over employee productivity. While remote workers can face challenges, these are overcome with proper planning and preparation. Research actually supports the hybrid model which better meets employees’ needs and ultimately can improve in office and working from home productivity.
The New Focus on Employee Productivity for the Hybrid Workplace
The Covid-19 crisis started a revolution in the way people work, and its impact will be felt for years to come. Measures adopted as a short-term coping mechanism for the pandemic have now implanted themselves and changed the future of work. In many ways, these changes are for the better, such as the shift to remote or hybrid work. While ‘work from home’ started as a temporary measure, many employees and organizations have discovered it’s benefits and are determined to continue. However, for this to be a long-term change, decision-makers need to see measurable effects, an important one being employee productivity.
Definition of Employee Productivity
Employee productivity is a measure of employee output. It’s often confused with efficiency but there is a crucial difference:
‘Effectiveness is how much effort an employee puts in, whereas productivity is how much work is completed.’ (BizFluent)
Challenges impacting employee productivity
For employees to get work done and be productive, certain steps need to be taken. Beyond noisy neighbors and barking dogs, remote workers face obstacles that organizations can help overcome with a few key changes.
Challenge: Unclear rules and processes
Guidelines for in-office workers have existed for decades. While, in many organizations, remote work guidelines were created only a few months ago. Work from home policies adopted at the beginning of the crisis have naturally had less time to develop. This impacts employee productivity, as nobody can be expected to be at their best if they don’t know what is required of them.
Solution: Develop guidelines and store on your intranet
Employees need to know when they are expected to be available and through what mediums. There should be clear rules and processes so employees know who to report to and for what. Communication channels should be clearly defined, for example, outline when to use Yammer over Teams, or email instead of chat. Providing remote work guidelines will overcome confusion and allow employees to focus on the task at hand.
Communicate these guidelines and best practices to employees somewhere they will see. An intranet is a perfect tool for this, to ensure top-down communications get to employees. An effective intranet will store important remote work guidelines and highlight updates to employees.
Challenge: Outdated employee success measurements
Gone are the days where employee productivity was measured by the number of hours employees sat at their desks. The hybrid workplace is by nature more flexible and so appraisal processes should recognize this.
Solution: Update employee KPIs
Measuring productivity by tasks completed, targets reached, or metrics met, provides much better insight into productivity.
Challenge: Not having the right tools
The biggest challenge impacting both in-office and work from home productivity is when workers don’t have the right digital tools. As employees continue to split their time between the office and home, they will need to be able to collaborate and receive communications. Just as a painter needs a brush, your employees need the right tools to get their work done.
Solution: A complete digital workplace
In a hybrid workplace, the most crucial tool employees need is a complete digital workplace. Somewhere both remote and in-office employees can collaborate and communicate to work effectively. However, putting too many new tools in front of employees will only confuse them and can actually decrease employee productivity. The key is to have a full digital workplace that bridges collaboration and communication tools and makes them accessible from one location.
An intranet informs and engages employees, by providing a space where they can receive company news, apply for internal job postings, access guidelines on hybrid work, easily view colleagues’ profiles, and much more. Both remote and in-office workers need this information but may want to access the portal in different ways. Remote employees should be able to access the intranet on their mobile device, from anywhere.
A tool like Microsoft Teams is the perfect platform for collaboration. Remote and in-office workers can use it day to day and create Teams for specific projects. However, organizations must ensure Microsoft Teams is used as intended and Teams creation is controlled. Teams sprawl and no structure can impact productivity by distracting employees from their tasks.
Why the interest in a permanent hybrid workplace and what exactly is it?
A hybrid workplace is one in which employees have the option to work physically in an office or remotely, from wherever they want. It’s a relatively new term and not strictly defined. So it will be up to organizations to put in place their own definition and guidelines. However, generally speaking, it means giving employees flexibility in where they get their work done. In a study by Buffer, 99% of respondents said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.
There are many reasons organizations may want to switch to the hybrid workplace model, some linked to the pandemic and others are more long term.
Social distancing, a term unknown in 2019, has become an important part of working life to safeguard employees. Ensuring a 6-foot gap between staff members affects office organization. The result is that employees have to alternate the days they are in the office. Booking desk space in advance can help document who is in and ensure everyone has a workspace. Hot desking provides safety and is key to the hybrid workplace.
Before 2020, physical offices were the go-to workplace. There was a presumption that workers needed to be in the office to be productive. This way of thinking doesn’t accommodate different types of employees and doesn’t take into consideration working style and personal situations. In fact, over 40% of employees want to work remotely more often. Why? 91% want a better work-life balance, 79% want increased productivity. Employees also want less stress and office drama. Some have childcare responsibilities or disabilities. Beyond employee productivity, hybrid work takes a more holistic view of employee needs and wellbeing.
Employee Productivity: Are remote or in-office workers more productive?
The employee productivity debate infiltrates every discussion around the hybrid workplace. One question always comes up: Are in-office or remote workers more productive?
The mass move to remote work has been a blessing in disguise for this debate, as it has provided a huge subject pool and research opportunities. While a pandemic is not the ideal time to measure employee productivity, it has allowed people to test working from home. So which do the statistics favor; remote or in-office employees?
Employee Productivity Key Figures
- A study by the BCG found that 75% of employees surveyed, from across three countries, considered their working from home productivity equal to pre-pandemic productivity.
- CoSo Cloud similarly found 77% of respondents reported greater productivity working from home.
- Atlassian reports 76% of people actually avoid going into the office when they have something they really need to get done.
There are strong indicators to suggest that employee productivity isn’t affected by remote work. However, the most balanced argument is that some employees are more productive at home, others in the office. In both cases, employee productivity can be improved by identifying the challenges each are facing and providing the right tools to overcome them.
The Complete Guide to Preparing your Team for Remote Work Success
Whether you decide to make the move to full remote or choose a hybrid work set, we’ve put together a guide to help ensure long-term success. Download the complete guide to remote work success and help employees be productive wherever they work from.