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How to Establish Productivity Guidelines for Remote Employees

Remote employees get to set their own schedules and work at their own pace, while you save on a wide variety of expenses, including office space. However, allowing employees to work from home presents its own unique challenge for managers: how can you oversee and ensure productivity? It’s a good question considering the new distractions remote employees have to deal with, from a sink full of dishes to cable and a comfortable couch.

While recent data finds that remote employees are often times more productive than those who work in an office, that doesn’t guarantee yours will follow suit. Use the following ideas to establish productivity guidelines if you find employees are falling behind while working from home, or if a remote culture is still new to your organization.


Maintain Clear Expectations

Guideline: Set short- and long-term goals on a regular cadence

Employees that know what’s expected of them are more likely to deliver on projects. Setting specific goals also gives you the peace of mind you need to wait for employees to follow through on expectations:

“A remote worker’s output should be no different than that of an employee who reports to a cubicle every day. Simply stating shared and measurable objectives for a remote team member eliminates the temptation to micromanage the person for fear he or she is slacking,” according to 5 Essential Keys to Leading a Remote Workforce.

Put it into action: Start a goal-setting initiative, in which employees set goals monthly, weekly, quarterly or per project. They’re empowered to complete the goals they set for themselves and you have less to worry about because both you and each individual employee have set expectations.


Emphasize Communication

Guideline: Always follow the “Communication Manifesto”

There are a number of ways to ensure communication is productive among remote employee, starting by investing in a team communication tool, like Slack. Next, do with an audit of your meetings—which ones need to stay, which ones can go and do any need to be added now that the team is spread out?

Tony Grace, of Management Today, also suggests setting a communication timeframe. For example, everyone must respond to emails within 24 hours, 48 hours, or whatever time frame you and your team decide is best.

Put it into action: Create a communication handbook or manifesto that’s built into your remote culture. When it becomes a part of the way your business runs, employees will see these less as rules and more as a way to get what they need in a timely fashion.


Set A Schedule

Guideline: Be online at X time, M-F

While being in an office with co-workers is distracting for some, and therefore reduces productivity, meeting online everyday may do the opposite for remote employees. With everyone available at the same time, employees are able to be more productive, getting answers and feedback quickly because they don’t have to wait.

Set a simple schedule, like: Everyone must be online Monday through Friday, from 10am to 1pm. This allows employee to maintain a large portion of the say over their schedule, while staying connected, if only for a few hours of the day.

Put it into action: Poll employees anonymously to find out what time of the day is best for them to be online. This may be challenging with employees in different time zones, so take that into account as well. Schedule team or company meetings during this time, and offer remote professional development opportunities during non-scheduled times of the day. For example, pay for webinars that employees can attend to increase the amount of hours they spend “working together.”


Take Technology Breaks

Guideline: Step away from your computer X times each day

Remote employees report being more productive, but that could be in large part because they’re doing more work after hours than they would in an office job. Working excessive hours over a long period of time will quickly lead to burnout, which decreases productivity.

Don’t let this happen to your remote employees. Instead, add brain breaks to your productivity guidelines. According to Unplug After Hours and Increase Productivity, productivity increases 34% if you take frequent breaks. Even more interesting, the top 10% of the most productive workers in your workplace take a 17-minute break every hour.

Put it into action: Encourage remote employees to take breaks at least once an hour. You can even host online competitions to see who can take the most effective brain breaks, getting more done each day without working after hours, through lunch, etc.


Stay Productive, Even Remote

Remote teams may already feel they’re more productive, but you can ensure that’s the case with your employees using these guidelines. Simple rules keep everyone in communication and focused, while allowing for the freedom that comes with working remote.



About the Author

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a content marketing consultant and small business owner. She’s been part of a growing startup for 2.5 years, where she continues to learn about running business and being resourceful. She’s been featured on Forbes and Business Insider, and has written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect on LinkedIn.

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