Does ‘Working from home’ mean ‘walking the dog’ for some of us? In a survey, remote workers were asked if they ever indulge in personal day-to-day tasks inside of work hours when working from home, and the results were startling.
64% of employees admitted to taking care of personal tasks during the remote workday from time to time, while a whopping 13% say that they always get done with personal chores while on the clock, such as talking the dog out for a walk, picking kids up from school, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, whipping up meals, or actually catching up on snooze after clocking in. Only 23% of employees asserted that they never take care of personal errands or indulge in hobbies in their remote workday. In fact, 39% of employees spend an hour or more on personal errands, in addition to enjoying a full lunch break.
This has led employers to worry that their remote employees are spending more time at home doing personal tasks than actually working! . Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees.
Schedule Regular Check-Ins
Weekly, or even bi-weekly, team-wide conference calls are a must, even if you establish constant communication on your group chat. This is because conference calls with specific agendas give all your employees an outline for their responsibilities in the immediate future, set clear expectations, and make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding milestones and objectives.
One other reason I show a great proclivity towards conference calls is because they create a layer of accountability; after all, nobody wants to appear unprepared or found to be under-performing in front of the entire team. Set aside an hour or two each week and communicate the time and date ahead of time so that everyone can be present. Without a doubt, these regularly scheduled check-ins will help keep your team moving in the right direction.
Scheduling regular face-to-face encounters or in-person interactions with the broader team also helps to eliminate mistrust, build better camaraderie, and show your accessibility. If you can, have your teammates come to the office every once in a while, and participate in meetings in person. If not, you can also schedule one-on-one video meetings with individual employees every once in a while, to focus on career objectives and performance.
Track Internet Usage Of Remote Workers
While remote workers are generally safe from noisy co-workers, the cacophony of sounds, and water cooler gossips, it doesn’t mean that they won’t get sucked into the whirlpool of social media or while away hours on Netflix, just because no body is watching! This is where you can employ software like the “TimeDoctor Tool” to track employee usage and make sure they are only visiting relevant websites and online applications during work hours.
This amazing tool monitors all applications and websites that each individual remote employees opens while on the clock. Even better, the tool sends a detailed report to the team manager, highlighting any unproductive or irrelevant applications or websites used by a team member, such as Facebook, YouTube, or other entertainment sites. If your employee uses social media as part of their job, you can add those sites to the list of productive websites inside the tool, so that their usage does not trigger an alarm and count towards actual work done.
Internet usage monitoring highlights productivity issues and makes you know for sure which of your employees are just “appearing to be busy” with nothing to show for it. You can subtract the hours spent procrastinating from total work hours logged by your remote worker to calculate the number of hours in which the employee was actually working!
Establish “Rules Of Engagement”
Research shows that remote work becomes all the more satisfying and efficient when managers set expectations for the ideal timing, means, and frequency of communication for their teams. For instance, you can set a norm where IM is used to communicate something urgent, while daily check-in meetings are conducted via videoconferencing.
As a manager, you also have to communicate the best way and time to reach you during the workday, so that your remote workers know your availability. For instance, if you are working from home with kids, and you have to put your kids down for a nap during certain hours, let your team members know that you won’t be available for a video or a phone call, but they can send you a text if something urgent pops up.
Finally, you need to keep your eyes and ears open for communication among team members, without micromanaging for sure, to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.
We recommend that managers establish these “rules of engagement” with employees before going fully remote. The key is that all remote workers share the same set of expectations for communication so that there is no confusion.
Set Measurable Goals
In every team, there are two sets of remote workers: those who give their best, or even exceed expectations, and those who only work just enough not to get fired and secure a paycheck at the end of the month. This latter category is the one that should concern you the most. You can mitigate this lax attitude by distributing tasks within any project to different team members with deadlines, expectations, and regular reminders.
Once employees are made accountable for their own tasks and know that you can see the progress made at every step of the way, they will be spurred into completing that task on time. But when you are setting a deadline, make sure that the number of hours you are allocating to a task, are not unreasonable.
Additionally, a transparent team culture increases employee trust which helps to keep everybody laser-focused on the same goal. Make sure that all team members can see who is assigned which task within a project so that there are no confusions. This makes everyone see the bigger picture, helping them understand their individual contribution to the overall project and comprehend dependencies better. Communicating your expectations to your remote workers and seeking their feedback is also important for team collaboration.
Make Use Of Online Tools
Software and monitoring tools become your eye when you are not there to keep tabs on your remote workers physically. In addition to chat platforms that promote collaboration and communication, there are also project management software, video conference solutions, internet usage monitoring tools, time and attendance systems, and many other options that you can use to organize your team and keep everyone on the same page. Here are a few to get started:
With basecamp, employees can check off items on their to-do list so that everyone knows what has been done, as well as add new tasks to the list. Management can check whether the employees are spending the appropriate amount of time on tasks and are actually getting things done through the day. Basecamp also gives you features such as automatic time tracking, automatic screenshots, productivity monitoring, project tracking, and automatic online timesheets.
Veriato has given a whole new meaning to employee tracking, with additional features such as forensic investigation, data loss prevention, employee monitoring and insider threat detection.
This amazing employee monitoring tool is also UI friendly and displays every information appropriately. Its efficient time tracking tool monitors the amount of time an employee works.
The one app you need to see exactly where your remote employees spend all their time. Unlike traditional time tracking, this app keeps tabs on what employees work on automatically and uses AI to create time sheets for them. Each employee’s overtime, workload, activity, and capacity can be followed from the global “People dashboard”, ensuring you always know what people are working on and if they need support.
The Project Management Roadmap
This application works wonders in tracking time for remote employees. Once you start using this application, your productivity will spike, and your team will be back on employees’ trackable time.