Editor’s note: Sergey focuses on the role of technology in improving the productivity of employees working from home. Specifically, he describes how collaboration tools like Office 365 apps help organizations support the high productivity of remote workers. To know more about ways to boost working from home productivity, feel free to contact our consultants.
Many companies are wary about the productivity of their employees working from home, especially those with little experience in telecommuting. Indeed, many factors may affect teleworkers’ productivity, such as communication and coordination challenges, poor time management, distractions, procrastination, isolation and loneliness, and more. At the same time, remote workers have proven that they can be 20-25% more productive than their onsite colleagues.
I’m sure your employees don’t need an office to be productive. But they need the right tools to build an effective digital workplace that will support their daily activities and maintain productivity while working from home. In this article, I’ll rely on ScienceSoft’s experience with collaboration, communication and project management solutions to show you how technology encourages increased productivity of working from home.
To remain informed and fulfill job tasks successfully, remote employees need reliable and timely access to the company’s data and tools, which can be achieved with the help of cloud technology. Cloud-based networks provide the secure and organized storage of documents and data and help employees reach the company’s content at any time and from any device. I suggest using a cloud intranet as such a point of contact for your remote employees. Let me provide you a real-life example. In one of our projects, we’ve developed a SharePoint Online intranet for a financial advisory firm. The intranet enables an easy and quick document search and helps support regulatory compliance due to the centralized storage of sensitive documents.
For employees working from home, it’s important to have more diversified capabilities to reach their colleagues than emailing. So, I recommend using software that offers multiple communication channels. For example, with Office 365, remote employees can communicate via instant messaging, audio and video calling. Office 365 tools like Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business facilitate constant and open two-way communication and help scattered team members stay on the same page. These tools enable employees to schedule and hold conversations with multiple people, share and record screens and calls, and more.
Technology helps improve remote collaboration. For example, SharePoint Online allows creating secure digital spaces for team collaboration where users can share files, add inline comments, edit documents in real time simultaneously with other users, and Microsoft Teams offers remote brainstorming by providing an online whiteboard.
Time management for employees working from home is even more important than in an office. And I believe proper time tracking tools can help them remain responsible and productive. For example, actiTIME enables recording employee work hours either manually or via a timer available in the mobile app, which helps identify productivity bottlenecks and get valuable insights how to improve work efficiency. By the way, my colleagues have developed a similar time-tracking mobile app for one of our customers, which facilitates logging time spent on work tasks.
Project and task management tools are also an important part of supporting employee accountability as they help create full visibility into working activities. For example, Office 365 tools like Project Online and Planner can help managers see employees’ task statuses, progress and overall performance in real time. As for remote employees, they can keep track of all their projects and tasks with such tools and get reminders of approaching deadlines, which drives them to stay focused on tasks and complete them in time. Let me provide an example. In one of our projects, my team developed project management software that enables visibility into project data, such as start and end dates, a status, a project manager, a team, and more. Software also tracks booked and actual hours per employee and provides time analysis that compares estimated, booked and actual hours per team.
Technology can help remote employees focus on work tasks and increase productivity by protecting them from distractions on the internet. Let me share an example of an anti-procrastination app developed by my colleagues. This app provides three options for blocking the internet: blocking is activated until a computer’s restart, blocking is activated until a working day ends, blocking is imposed only on the websites considered to be distracting like social media or video-sharing platforms.
Due to the lack of informal communication, an inherent feature of the office life, employees working from home may feel disengaged and stressed, which will have an adverse effect on employee productivity. And in this situation, technology can also come to help due to encouraging socializing with colleagues to increase employee engagement and make them feel better connected.
I suggest using conventional communication tools like Teams or Slack for supporting corporate culture and nurturing the sense of community. For example, your remote employees can allocate some time before or after video meetings to discuss news, hobbies or other non-work related topics. It’s also possible to use these tools to organize team-building events for employees to interact informally.
Another effective way to engage employees that I recommend is leveraging a social intranet. It already has spaces like communities, hobbies, discussion boards, polls and media galleries that encourage informal interaction. For example, we’ve developed such a social intranet for a biopharmaceutical company. It offers various social features like forum, newsfeed, articles and questionnaires. The intranet is accessible from mobile devices and enables employees to share content with colleagues, publish articles, post comments and questions, and get the latest corporate news and updates.
Ready to increase your employees’ productivity?
I’ve outlined the ways in which technology helps improve working from home productivity. However, choosing the right technology for your organization can be a challenging task. First of all, you should evaluate the productivity needs of your business. Then, you need to check whether new technology fits well with your organization’s existing processes and tools. An additional challenge is that there are many tools to choose from on the market. So, in order to make the right choice and cover your productivity needs with well-suited technology, feel free to apply for a professional consultation.