Work Culture And Productivity When WFH

Guest post by Josh Walker, Digital Content Creator at Tevent.

29th Nov 2022

Work culture has often been difficult to pin down — an abstract concept reinforced by repetitive actions and reactions. In the world of flexible and remote working, a new, potentially more progressive work culture is slowly emerging from this vague and somewhat mystic way of being. It is conveyed and confirmed quite literally. 

Gone are the days when you’d silently stay behind to take care of some task or another — hoping that someone somewhere would take note of your additional efforts. If we stay behind, we signal our efforts on group chats or accept that no one will ever know. 

Conversely, companies find it challenging to track productivity in a work-from-home environment without resorting to Orwellian surveillance methods. “Activity does not equal productivity,” says Bart Willemsen, Gartner vice president and analyst, focused on privacy and technology. “Productivity should equal outcomes.” 

“Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive.” — Owl Labs

Healthy employees = healthy businesses

There’s a wealth of information and resources out there for you to keep your employees happy and healthy. As the old adage tells us, we should all leave our problems at home, however, this rather ironic statement doesn’t account for remote and flexible work.

“Poor mental health is also cited as a factor that impacts productivity for 1 in 5 employees, contributing to costly levels of presenteeism (on both a personal and business level).” — Champion Health

Ensure everyone has what they need 

Sufficient equipment for employees to carry out daily tasks is, and always has been, a fundamental aspect of any business — so why should that be any different for flexible work?

“In 2020, 64% of those surveyed are very open and 33% are somewhat open to remote onboarding as long as the company provides adequate resources and support.” — State of Remote Work Report by Hired

Hardware that meets the requirements of their roles and software to carry out tasks to a high standard should both be carefully considered before even thinking of recruiting. If you require employees to have the equipment, clearly state this in the posting to save yourself and your prospects time. 

Ensure your employees have a comfortable and safe work environment. No company is exempt from liability for their employees’ well-being — so be sure to stay compliant and attentive to the needs of your staff. 

“Most cases have proven employers liable to provide workers’ compensation for an employee's injury while working from home. The way work environment is currently defined under Occupational Safety and Health.

Administration includes remote employees’ environments.” — Obsidian HR

Educating employees on what constitutes a safe work environment will be beneficial for not only them but your company too. In this new age of flexible working, there are a plethora of co-working spaces and groups — whether they be open to all or safe spaces for specific groups and minorities.

Actively encourage a positive work culture around mental health 

Opening up a dialogue around mental health should begin at the top. Asking your employees to share their problems is one thing, but being open yourself will get the conversation flowing. Leading by example in such a way can be a great way to create a positive mental health culture in the workplace. 

“Talking can be a way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around your head for a while. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. And it works both ways. If you open up, it might encourage others to do the same.” — Mental Health Foundation

Check-in with your employees with regular one-to-ones, and encourage them to talk to each other about their stresses. According to HSE, in “2020/2021, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work ill health cases”, so there’s no denying that employee health and company health go hand in hand. 

Regular check-ins needn’t be performance reviews; they can be informal chats about the week to identify positives and negatives and find a route forward that benefits all. Positive reinforcement can do wonders for productivity — because we all want to feel like there’s value in our work.

Encourage social interactions at all levels 

Allowing employees to socialise can do wonders for team morale and cohesion. If you’re on a call, 5-10 minutes spent catching up at the start is not a waste of time but the perfect opportunity for human interaction. It may seem shocking that “the average employee is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day”, however: 

“Engaged employees are more productive, resulting in a 21% increase in profits [and] 41% of stressed employees state that stress negatively affects productivity.” — Go Remotely

Building bonds between employees will give them more of a vested interest in each others’ goals, and the more team members are aligned, the more efficiently projects will be carried out. On Tevent, colleagues meet at their virtual pub once a week on a Thursday to play games, chat, and laugh together — there are countless ways to engage virtually

Having channels that encourage inter- and intra-team engagement — bridging the gaps that may form without the bond of a permanent physical workplace. Start up a channel to share pictures, songs and jokes — or encourage employees to carve out their own space away from the prying eyes of management. 

What’s more, remember to meet up in person whenever you can. Isolation can have extreme and even fatal effects when not properly managed — and remote/flexible work does not have to be the antithesis to IRL encounters. We’ve found that building strong connections virtually makes us far more excited to meet up face to face finally. Go for a working lunch, meet up in a co-working space, or plan a work night out to keep your employees socially satisfied. 

Efficient processes = efficient employees 

Aside from what you can do as an employer on a human level, there are many ways to improve employee satisfaction and productivity in flexible work. Getting everyone on the same page is vital for any business, but more so for those in remote and flexible work.

Communicate your mission, goals, and work policy clearly 

When onboarding new employees, it’s important to equip them with all they need to thrive in their roles. Outlining your mission for investors is one thing, but communicating that effectively to the wider team is a beast of its own. 

Involving them in the process is a fantastic way to see where wires have become crossed — ask your team directly, and talk it through. This will help you to understand the parts that make up the whole. Once you’ve reached common ground on best describing your mission, it will be easier to communicate naturally to new employees. 

Outline what is expected from employees at a base level — be it behaviour, time, efficiency, and the meaning of ‘remote’ or ‘flexible’. These terms are used by many companies to signal myriad different styles of working, so being open and up-front about expectations will clear up many teething issues. 

If you want your employees to tell you what they’re up to, try telling them what you’re up to. If you’re heading out for an hour, let them know — normalising the comings and goings will foster a more truthful and open dialogue. 

Since candid communication doesn’t happen as naturally in virtual spaces, it’s important to normalise a culture of open communication to all get on the same page. 

Track performance, not hours 

Working from home can be difficult times. Self-motivation is a tough beast to tackle, and when you account for the diverse range of people out there, there is no one-size-fits-all to work patterns. This is the blessing and curse of flexible working — autonomy and accountability.  

“The eight-hour workday is not based on the optimal number of hours a human can concentrate. In fact, it has almost nothing to do with the kind of work most people do now: Its origins lie in the Industrial Revolution, not the Information Age.” — INC 

Accounting for neurodiversity, not everyone learns, listens or works as you do — some have short bursts of productivity, and others prefer the steady crawl. If both parties output the same performance, there’s no need for intervention. If someone begins to lag, try to understand why and provide help. 

Assign roles and responsibilities with clarity

If your team don’t know what they’re responsible for, deadlines will rarely be met. Requesting, assigning and logging just who does, did, or will do what tasks can be tricky, especially in inter-department projects. 

Consider a Kanban board or a table with a clearly defined process so nothing slips through the cracks. Regardless of how streamlined this process becomes, always discuss tasks with the relevant stakeholders to ensure fair and equal workloads. 

At the end of each meeting, write out clear actionable steps that each stakeholder should perform, and by when. When all parties know what’s required from them and how it fits into the bigger picture, there will be increased accountability and efficiency.  

Designing these efficient processes can take some time and effort — but they are, without a doubt, worthwhile. The back and forth of remote working can be arduous, and there’s no popping over to someone’s desk to get an update. 

This can be positive in many ways — as there are fewer interruptions; however, it could bottleneck others and stall projects from progressing. If there are multiple stakeholders involved, outlining expectations and roles clearly, and providing robust handovers and briefs are all essential. 

Consider ranking priorities 

Working remotely, your employees may fall into the trap of responding as quickly as possible, to prove that they are attentive and actively working. This is a mistake. Switching between tasks rapidly and consistently is adverse to productivity. 

It’s near impossible to reach a flow state when switching between tasks in such a way. Often meaningful work will be interrupted to carry out smaller, less pressing tasks. Agree on a hierarchy of importance, and relay this clearly to map out healthy boundaries within remote and flexible teams. 

“According to psychologist Gerald Weinberg, each extra task or ‘context’ you switch between eats up 20–80% of your overall productivity.” — Rescue Time

Allow your employees time to respond to messages, and allow the allocation of time for important tasks to be carried out uninterrupted. Ensure this is understood by the wider team. Consider ‘deep-work’ days, with no meetings scheduled whatsoever. 

As a fully remote team, Tevent knows the struggles of working from home — the good, the bad, and the ugly. They’re a virtual events platform that knows better than most the effects of Zoom fatigue — so Tevent tries to keep things fresh with GIFs, emoji reactions, and Miro collaboration for Frankensteinian ‘art’ pieces. 

Tevent is heavily influenced by the feedback and experiences of all users — but those that work remotely are especially close to their hearts.