We’ve recently spent a lot of time discussing what it means to be productive in the workplace, but we haven’t given as much attention to what it means to be productive in a remote working environment. Our team has noticed over the past few months that staying on track at home can look very different than it does when working in the office. That’s why we got some input from a few industry leaders in the realm of productivity and remote work to share their advice for all who are interested.
Make sure to revisit your calendar.
In the office environment, we know that too many meetings affect productivity, but when working from home, the calendar invites can pile on thick. Whether people want clarity, face-to-face interactions, or immediate answers, the outcome can leave team members without time to get work done. Because it’s so easy to accept all meeting invites and get stuck in back-to-back conversations with your team, it’s vital to schedule time blocks for yourself to focus.
At Capacity, our team has recently stopped scheduling meetings on Fridays, and we now use Fridays as a “focus day” to wrap up projects before the weekend begins. This was a decision made by our CRO, and he blocked time on his calendar on Fridays to say “Focus Time: Ask before scheduling a meeting.” The rest of the team followed suit, and we haven’t looked back.
If you believe your organization could benefit from seeing exactly how much of your teams’ day is spent in meetings before making a company-wide shift, there are plenty of time-tracking tools. For example, Hubstaff offers time tracking, screenshots, and recording to improve time management for maximum productivity and efficiency.
The Blog Manager at Hubstaff, Catherine Webb, shared some helpful insights on what their team normally sees:
“Unnecessary meetings are one of the biggest time wasters we see in remote work. Since many companies recently started working from home for the first time, a lot of managers are using daily check-in meetings to stay informed. Some teams have two or three check-in meetings every day! A check-in meeting eats up an hour or more that could have been used for productive work, and the interruption makes it harder for your team to focus on their top priorities. Two check-ins every day easily adds up to 10 hours a week, which is a whopping 25% of your team’s potentially productive time. Add in any other meetings on the calendar and you might find that your team is spending 30% to 50% of their time in meetings that could be automated or eliminated.”
Basically, the more recurring meetings you can eliminate or shorten a week, the more time you can redirect towards the completion of tasks. If you can automate the information that you share, there will be little-to-no sacrifice required at all!
Hold yourself accountable.
When we’re in a bustling office environment, the environment itself holds people accountable. You most likely have a designated desk where everything you need is available at your fingertips. When everyone began transitioning to working from home, many people had to disrupt their home set-up to create a space that mimicked that of their office. Depending on each household, there might be more or fewer distractions. The difference is that at home, there isn’t anyone or anything around to keep you accountable for how you work. While a lenient and flexible work environment can encourage productivity for some, it’s easier to get tied into non-work-related tasks during the workday when you are at home.
If your organization is still getting used to the working-from-home changes, the CEO of Goalry and Loanry, Ethan Taub, shared his thoughts on staying accountable, “When at home, I highly advise sticking to a schedule or, if you live with others, have them tell you if they notice you slacking off. We all do it, it’s a natural thing, but teach yourself to avoid it.”
Before COVID-19 hit, we weren’t working remotely, but our company has always had a flexible, unlimited PTO policy. Because of the trust ingrained in our culture, our team felt comfortable enough to take the time they needed. Staying productive at work (or home) is easier when everyone has the freedom to take the time they need for the factors of life outside of work. By providing a trusting environment, we’ve seen great rewards when it comes to accountability and productivity during the workday.
Remember to stay flexible.
Regardless of the environment, it’s important to realize that you can’t control every part of your day. Even when you hold yourself accountable while working from home, things can still come up and throw off your day. It’s important to realize that flexibility is just as important as priorities in the workday.
Catherine from Hubstaff mentioned that “Flexibility is one of the secret superpowers of remote work because it’s possible to schedule your workday around things like childcare, sleep schedules, and distractions. Clearly define your priorities, then get out of the way and give your team the uninterrupted time to get things done.”
At Capacity, every department works in two-week sprints in Jira. While we plan to make sure tasks get completed in a timely fashion, a high-priority task might come up at the last minute and disrupt one team member’s plans. However, with communication and collaboration, all the planned tasks can reach completion after discussing roadblocks and reprioritizing.