Lessons Learned: What Business Leaders Can Take from Their Remote Experience to Increase Team Productivity

Written by – Michael Ede

Productivity is at the heart of every business, and remote working pulls people out of the office and into the comforts (and distractions) of home. Therefore, one might think that the explosion of home offices over the past few years would see a commensurate drop in productivity. However, the opposite is true.

Survey research by Airtasker shows that remote workers can be more productive than their in-office counterparts. However, the reasons for increased productivity are complicated, and working from home has its drawbacks. This article will explore the best practices business leaders can use to improve their team’s productivity.

Consistent Schedules Promote Workforce Health

The Airtasker survey suggests maintaining a set routine to stay productive. In addition, research backs up the idea that regular routines promote mental health and productivity.

Encourage workers to stick to the same schedule at home as they followed when they regularly visited the office. Maintaining this schedule will keep your employees focused and make them feel more organised and effective. For people who have returned to the office after the pandemic, try to ensure new office regulations integrate smoothly into a “new normal.”

Habitual Planning Reduces Anxiety

Business leaders know how important it is to stay focused and get through a daunting pile of work. But unfortunately, too many looming tasks can cause anxiety and reduce productivity. Working at home and being too near to unfinished domestic tasks can exacerbate this phenomenon. The answer: make a to-do list!

Scholars have shown the profound psychological effect of planning out unfinished tasks. In addition, the simple act of writing down a plan can decrease the cognitive load on workers at all levels, allowing them to remain focused on the individual task in front of them. Therefore, encourage your team members to write down their daily goals to stop them from jumping from task to task.

This approach can scale to groups. Whether remote or in the office, plan daily or weekly meetings where you and your team can deconstruct and prioritise tasks, accounting for deadlines. The time spent in the meetings will be well worth the mental clarity gained by making a plan.

Distractions Kill Productivity at Home and In-Person

Even though all the distractions of domestic life surround people working from home, they nevertheless lose less time than their office-bound colleagues. According to the Airtasker study, the disparity is 27 minutes per day lost to distractions by remote workers and 37 minutes by office workers. However, both groups still waste time during the workday.

Fortunately, the rise in home offices during the pandemic revealed the importance of thoughtfully constructing workspaces. These insights are also effective in the office.

Distractions include texts, phone calls, and social media, among many other things. Consider silencing your phone during stretches of work and perhaps mandating it for your team. Home offices should “feel” like a workplace, and nobody should seek productivity on their bed or couch.

Furthermore, business leaders must let their teams stay busy with their work. According to the Airtasker survey, management spends twice as much time discussing non-work-related things as regular workers. Indeed, employees cited management as one of their biggest distractions. So, whether remote or in-person, respect everyone’s productive time and save the chit-chat for breaks and the instructions for scheduled meetings.

Frequent Breaks Prevent Burn-Out and Raise Productivity

According to the Airtasker poll, taking breaks is the preferred method for remote workers to stay productive – but does it work? Research shows that breaks boost productivity more than lengthy stints at the desk. Interestingly, office workers take less break time than remote workers on average.

Encourage your staff to take periodic breaks during the workday, particularly when they feel unusually worn out or preoccupied. Common effective break activities include eating a healthy snack, going for a stroll, making a call to a friend, meditating, etc.

The Pomodoro technique provides regularity for people who need structured breaks (like procrastinators). Here is a general outline –
1. Work for 25 minutes with a timer.
2. Take a break (5-10 minutes).
3. Repeat until completing your 4th work period.
4. Take a longer (20-30 minute) break.
5. Repeat for the duration of your workday.

Regardless of how you structure your time, ensure you engage in healthy activities during your breaks. Of course, it is essential for business leaders who have gone back to the office to encourage their team to do the same.

The Lessons Learned from Remote Work Carry Over to Office Work

Working remotely presents many challenges. However, the resilience and innovative spirit of business leaders and team members alike have left us with several best practices that increase productivity at home and in the office. A well-structured, distraction-free workplace punctuated by healthy breaks seems to be the best arrangement at home and in the office. As a business leader, you can use pandemic-era lessons to get the best out of your team no matter where the future takes us.