Even before the pandemic struck in 2020, it was becoming more common for people to work remotely. This has some definite advantages – but it can also be tricky to keep remote workers motivated and productive.
Remote working on the rise
Of course, COVID-19 and associated lockdowns revolutionised the way many companies operate. It forced whole workforces offsite. Around the globe, it has become part of the “new normal” for team members to work from home.
Even before the pandemic, the trend was towards working remotely, some or all the time.
In South Africa, a 2017 survey by Dimension Data found that as many as 42% of large organisations have some employees working from home full-time. In small businesses and startups, the figures may be much higher.
Another 2018 survey found that 56% of South Africans regularly telecommute.
Trends are similar elsewhere. As early as 2017, The New York Times reported that 43% of US workers were spending at least some time working remotely. It also reported a 7% increase in the number of people working from home for either four or five days a week, from 2012 to 2016.
So the pandemic has massively accelerated a trend that was already in place.
Advantages of working remotely
Working remotely gives people greater flexibility and independence. It also cuts out the time, costs and frustration of having to commute.
A leading research firm, Leadership IQ, found that 45% of remote workers were happy in their jobs. This compared to only 24% of office workers.
For businesses, having remote workers also saves operating costs. A study by Global Workplace Analytics found that remote workers can save companies up to US$11,000 per year.
The challenges of remote working
For employees and organisations, remote working can pose challenges such as:
- lack of oversight
- personal isolation
- reduced communication
- lack of motivation
- increased distractions.
All of these issues can be tackled in various ways, but one of the hardest ones to overcome is a lack of motivation. We look at some of the ways that businesses can help keep remote workers motivated.
1 | Use effective communication tools
Effective communication is vital in any company, but it becomes even more so when employees work remotely.
Online tools offer a number of ways to communicate with remote workers. These include chat applications, productivity tracking and task assignment tools and video or voice conferencing.
2 | Don’t time track
Tracking your employees’ time might seem sensible, but it can make remote workers feel micromanaged.
Rather do productivity tracking, where you measure how much they’re getting done each week or month.
Regular meetings are also a good way to make sure they still understand the company’s expectations and are confident they can deliver on them.
3 | Encourage suitable work environments
An uncomfortable or noisy work environment, whether at home or in an office, can negatively affect productivity. It’s also awful for morale.
It’s worth checking that valued workers have suitable office space. Some employers may also opt to contribute to the costs of setting up home offices or renting shared workspace.
4 | Establish ground rules
Right from the start, both the employer and employee should agree and stick to clear parameters.
Discuss and agree on things like working hours, flexibility, reporting and meetings.
5 | Set clear expectations
Remote workers don’t have constant access to their supervisor or manager. So it’s vital they understand their key duties and responsibilities.
There shouldn’t be any question or confusion about what they should be delivering each month.
6 | Offer professional development
Learning helps remote workers feel more confident in their abilities and motivates them to be more proactive.
Offer opportunities to do online courses or attend local workshops. This will build their knowledge and expand their expertise, as well as boosting motivation.
7 | Keep employees in the loop
Remote workers may feel rather disconnected from an organisation’s progress and goals. Make sure to keep them informed of company changes and progress, and reassure them that they’re part of the team.
If there are any strategic meetings or presentations, find a way to include them via video conferencing or Facetime.
At The Workspace, we offer affordable, fully serviced offices and coworking, ideal for teams that include remote workers and for freelancers and independent contractors. For more information or to book a tour of one of our branches, call us on 087 059 7777 or contact us online.