Leading from Distance: How business leaders can improve productivity while working remotely

Out of sight may sometimes go out of mind with not-so-palatable consequences. One of the most likely scenarios of such a thing taking place is in the case of remote working. What was once a one-off thing is slowly turning central for the sheer survival and growth of certain industries. In fact, practically every industry, be it related to production or services, is looking up to remote working to cut costs and speed up services.

That said, not all is green on the other side of the fence. Some, in fact is increasingly turning brown with time given that not enough time could be spent studying the phenomenon of Work From Home and its outcomes across industries and job profiles. Pros and cons aside, there are certain steps that business leaders ought to take to motivate those working from remote locations so that the latter gives their best, while keeping the organizational flag flying high.

Map out those jobs and profiles that are best done remotely!

Not every job can be done remotely. Some in fact need the presence of people and systems all the time. This includes jobs directly related to production-lines and shopfloors. These obviously cannot be done from remote locations. That said, there are those which need to be done remotely either because of the way they are structured or affords the opportunity while keeping quality of work and costs either down or within limits.

Jobs typically doable at remote locations could include research, writing, data-entry and accounts to name some. By taking away such jobs, most business leaders can in fact motivate existing staff in office and remote locations to perform better. One of the first things that business leaders thus need to do is to segregate jobs into doable remotely and otherwise, and only then proceed towards taking firm actions.

Daily face-to-face interactions in a structured manner with a fixed agenda that is mixed with small talk (not necessarily being strictly related to work).

One of the biggest drawbacks of remote working is the feeling of alienation, and more so for those used to the air of an office with people milling around. Working alone can be disturbing, boring and in some, can lead to feeling low which if not addressed in time, may lead to depression. The good news is that the feeling of being lonely can be done away just as easily with the use of technologies which helps interact with the outside world, especially seniors and business leaders.

With broadband internet not being an issue in most countries, platforms including Google Meet, Zoom, Xoho etc have come up with elaborate systems where business leaders and those down the line can interact with those working remotely with the same ease and flexibility that applies in the physical world. While it makes sense to have structured meeting to make the most of time, it’s equally important to keep time aside for small chit-chats about the family, the weather and topics not strictly related to employment and a job.

While the former helps streamline job-related work including getting requisite permissions in place, the latter helps engender closeness among co-workers. This is especially true in times of crises like the present pandemic or when remotely working co-workers go through a personal tragedy.

Set-up clear KRAs and derive ways to achieve them. Treat deviations with requisite significance.

Sales is an activity where being opaque doesn’t help. It in fact muddles things which affects productivity and employee morale, and more so of those placed away from an office set-up. Productivity thus demands that one be as open and clear to the extent possible with figures and facts in place.

For instance, in the case of writing-related assignments, it makes sense for business leaders to be open with aspects including word-count, tone and tenor, dates of assignment etc. By providing relevant details and doing so with clarity, business leaders make their expectations clear to everyone including those working remotely which goes a long way in motivating workers to perform in a clear, precise, and output-related manner.

Where possible, insist on physical interactions.

Where there exists a possibility to meet in person at fixed intervals, it should surely be encouraged and utilized. Body language and nuances are something one cannot understand-despite the best of tech support unless one comes face-to-face with a person in a particular setting. It can have various forms including office attendance at regular intervals, meeting colleagues in informal (though structured) settings, presence in shared spaces which does away with travelling to far-off places.

Forms aside, what’s of importance is to meet in person where-ever possible. Sometimes it’s just one meet that does the trick of motivating people- and of that, most of the talking is done by gestures and body language!

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