Embracing the move to hybrid or fully remote work could be key to retaining staff amid the Great Resignation, but employers must support staff to be at their most productive when working from home
Many attempts have been made to explain the factors driving the Great Resignation, as the number of Americans quitting their jobs remains high in 2022, standing at 4.2 million in June – not far below the record high of 4.5 million in March.
A FlexJobs survey of more than 2,000 employees taken earlier this year revealed that 30% were thinking about quitting and a quarter had quit their jobs in the past six months. Of those who had recently quit, 43% left because there were no remote work options.
It’s no surprise the pandemic has led many people to reevaluate what they want from their workplaces, especially after just about every knowledge worker has had a taste of working from home in the past two years, and largely enjoyed it.
Job openings remain high – standing at 10.7 million in June – and many employers are reporting trouble attracting new hires. Continuing with remote work, or at least offering more choice in the form of a hybrid arrangement, could be the answer.
But while remote roles may fix a company’s hiring problems, they won’t help if businesses aren’t properly equipped to support productive home working.
The widely recognized productivity benefits of WFH can be canceled out if employees are unsupported, and unless home working policies are created to keep people engaged.
Employers should be asking themselves how they can help their staff to manage their workloads and use their time most effectively, as well as feel motivated and engaged in remote workplaces.
Here are five ways to help boost staff productivity:
- Streamline communication
Bad communication is one of the main obstacles to a productive and well functioning working environment. A 2018 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 44% of U.S. employees blamed bad communication for project delays, failures and cancellation, while 31% said it led to low morale in the workplace.
It also wastes time: Having to deal with an avalanche of emails, or switching between different systems such as Slack and Google Chat, eats into precious hours that would be better spent actually getting work done.
Employers should seek to streamline channels of communication wherever possible. Today, there are plenty of project management software options available – like Basecamp or Notion – which make it easier for teams to collaborate together online, wherever they are based. Some have their own instant chat service that can replace email threads and Slack.
- Eliminate unnecessary meetings
It’s no stretch to say that most companies are probably suffering from meeting bloat. A recent survey by Dialpad found that 83% of professionals spend between four and 12 hours in meetings each week. This is despite their inefficiency: 92% of employees consider meetings to be costly and unproductive, according to new research published in the Journal of Business Research.
In addition, for those who work from home, Zoom fatigue – the mental exhaustion that comes from too much video conferencing – is a real risk.
Cutting down on the number of meetings is an obvious solution to the problem, but it requires consensus to get everyone thinking: Do we really need a meeting to discuss this? Could it be dealt with better in another way?
Any meetings that are truly essential should be kept to a strict time limit and ideally grouped into a set period each day – e.g., between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., leaving employees with enough time to engage in deep, focused work in the afternoon. Some companies have introduced meeting-free days that have proved popular.
- Automate tasks
Employees are at their most productive when they can focus on their core work without being bogged down by nonurgent administrative tasks. These necessary but low-value jobs can add up to a significant portion of the working day, leaving staff with less energy and focus to attend to the tasks that really matter.
With this in mind, employers should think about whether they can introduce software to automate these jobs. A 2021 survey by UiPath found that employees spend an average of four and a half hours a week on repetitive tasks, so automating them could see employees gain the equivalent of an extra afternoon per week.
- Promote delegation
What about tasks that can’t be automated? This is where delegation – a skill that tends to be underused in many workplaces – comes in handy. To really get the best out of each employee, bosses should be asking whether staff are delegating everything they can and should be.
It’s likely that some more senior employees aren’t delegating enough of their work to junior members of their team, whether it’s because they think it’s easier to do it themselves or that the time-saving benefit isn’t significant enough. This, however, is a miscalculation: even saving just 15 minutes per task soon adds up to hours in time gained.
Meanwhile, other staff members simply won’t have anyone they can delegate less important work to. In these instances, virtual assistants – hired to work remotely on a per hour basis – can be a useful solution.
- Introduce coaching
Being trusted to work independently has a strong correlation with employee satisfaction: Research from Effectory found that 79% of employees who say they work autonomously also feel engaged by their jobs.
But, with too little structure when it comes to handling their workloads, staff working remotely could end up feeling unsupported.
Sadly, some employers don’t seem to trust their staff to be productive when working from home, as indicated by the rise in employee monitoring software.
Introducing a coaching initiative in the workplace could be a solution to making sure that employees feel supported, get the feedback they need and make the most of opportunities for professional development.
More informal than traditional managers, coaches are focused on helping staff develop and overcome any challenges, offering tailored support to help them manage their workloads in the way that suits them best and optimize their productivity.
Supporting remote workers to be at their most productive by helping them manage their time more effectively pays dividends. Companies that implement genuinely helpful measures will be much better able to withstand the Great Resignation – and will have happier, more engaged staff as a result.