The debate continues: are remote teams more productive? If you’re in the Netflix CEO’s camp, there are no benefits to remote (our quick thoughts on that here) and you would feel bolstered by this study shared by Tech Republic. On the opposing view, some research has revealed stabilization or gains in productivity, such as from BCG.
The reality is that not all remote professionals are productive because not all remote professionals are given the tools and support they need to thrive. This is especially important in the context of COVID-19, when the shift to remote work for so many people has been unstrategic and unexpected. The two key factors that determine whether or not remote professionals, and subsequently remote teams, are productive are trust and training.
How Does Trust Impact Productivity?
Effective remote work is based on the premise that professionals are more productive when they have autonomy, meaning they organize their own schedules, set parameters for their workdays to maximize when they are most productive, and set up their own workspace that is free from distractions. However, when managers lack trust in their remote employees and revert to micromanagement techniques or remote employee video and screen monitoring, the framework for remote work success crumbles.
Trust positively impacts productivity in all work environments through higher employee engagement, reduced bureaucracy, and higher quality collaboration. However, in remote work the struggle is when managers are unaccustomed to evaluating performance in a virtual setting.
This doesn’t mean you hire someone and never speak to them again. It means that you start with trust, you establish and communicate clear and measurable goals, and you provide the resources and support your employees need to achieve those goals. Establishing and maintaining trust begins with an intentional shift to a placeless mindset.
How Does Training Impact Productivity?
Training positively impacts productivity and can be especially valuable during times of transition. You cannot expect remote workers to be fully effective when they are physically separated from colleagues by solely attempting to replicate your in-office practices. Simply switching from a conference room to a Zoom room is not enough. Employees, especially those who were suddenly forced remote, are still adjusting to new ways of working, and we are hearing about consistent struggles, be it overworking, burnout, or inefficiencies.
Your remote team members need to strengthen the skills needed to optimally perform remotely, including autonomy, time management, and virtual communication. They also need the opportunity to develop best practices that have been proven effective in distributed work environments. A remote work training program can help. Look for programs that go beyond lecture-style videos. Our Workplaceless certification program uniquely focuses on building the skills needed for highly effective remote work, yet also provides opportunities to put those new habits into practice right away.
Not only do remote workers need foundational skills, but virtual leaders are desperate for training as well. A study by Harvard Business Review revealed that “40% of the 215 supervisors and managers in our study expressed low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely.” Another 16% were unsure. That’s 56% of remote leaders who do not feel confident leading their remote colleagues. Unfortunately, this lack of confidence doesn’t just affect managers themselves. The ripple effect on team productivity is powerful. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Trainings such as our Leadplaceless program are specifically designed to focus on virtual management skills and best practices.
While we know this training impact to be true from our years of experience with learners and clients in remote work, this was further proved by the 764 respondents in our Remote Work Training Report. Eighty-nine percent of respondents thought additional training would definitely or likely help their organization maintain positive productivity across distance.
As you focus on the output and results or your remote team, don’t ignore the critical inputs of trust and training. If you need support in developing a plan for your team, we’re here to help. Let’s schedule a chat.