Remote work is undergoing an evolution before our eyes. Rather than focusing attention and resources solely on home office optimization, businesses can boost their remote work productivity by prioritizing employee engagement. Here’s how to move beyond equipment and environment.
While 2020 will likely be remembered as the year of remote work, this trend has been gaining momentum for the past decade or so. A Gallup survey found that 43% of people worked from home on occasion all the way back in 2016. Three years later, a separate study by Owl Labs found that 54% of respondents worked remotely at least once a month — and 48% did so at least once a week.
With so many people working away from the office, it’s surprising that discussions about workspace optimization don’t often go much further than ergonomics.
Not that ergonomics in the workplace is inconsequential, of course. It’s always important to implement ergonomic solutions when executing home office optimization, such as promoting good posture, limiting repetitive motions, and minimizing exertion levels.
But remote work is evolving and no longer is limited to home offices — or employees’ homes. Companies should start expanding their idea of what it means to optimize the remote workspace to nurture engagement, efficiency, productivity, and so on.
Workspace Optimization Beyond the Traditional
From a remote workspace perspective, one of the biggest struggles for people is routine. Home and work quickly merge, and that lack of distinction can lead to distraction.
Workspace optimization starts by maintaining old activities like getting dressed, eating breakfast, and arriving at work at the same time each day. Doing so can help put remote workers into the work mindset, allowing them to stay focused on their responsibilities.
Behavior can also become problematic when people move to a remote workspace. Browsing the internet can increase. Taking breaks can become less frequent — or breaks begin to include trips to the grocer, hardware store, or gym. Much like their daily routines, remote workers must try to replicate some of their in-office actions.
Beyond routine and behavior, technology — or lack thereof — can sometimes hinder home office optimization. Most remote workers will have access to a desktop or laptop, which is certainly helpful. But if a dual-screen setup is how someone normally works in the office, they should make a case for the same situation at home.
Equip employees with messaging apps, videoconferencing software, and even a webcam and microphone, if necessary. Anything that helps facilitate greater communication and collaboration is worth the investment.
Nurturing Remote Work Employee Engagement
Promoting remote work employee engagement should become the focus. How can workspace optimization play into that? Here are a few places to start:
- Prioritize inclusivity.
Isolation and loneliness are valid concerns for workers transitioning to a remote workspace, but both are entirely preventable when employers respond proactively. At our company, we prioritize inclusivity by doing more than daily chats. We regularly organize “empathy injections,” which we use to help team members connect on big-picture elements and company culture.Remind employees about what unifies them with one another to establish a sense of belonging, bolster morale, and support remote work productivity. So many channels are now available for collaboration — why not employ them for the purposes of unity and inclusivity?
Just make sure all team members have the time to get comfortable with the technology you’re using. Learning curves differ significantly from one person to the next.
- Provide a discretionary fund.
No one needs to tell you how crucial engagement is for remote work productivity. Although professional development opportunities, contribution recognition, and regular performance reviews can help, employee engagement will also rise with the right work-life balance.For these reasons, we provide a discretionary fund to all of our team members. They can use it to grab a coffee at a local café, pay for a membership at a co-working space, or go work in another city for a week — whatever it takes to provide even greater flexibility and support remote work employee engagement.
- Connect in-person — after the pandemic, of course.
Retreats for remote workers are nothing new. Two or three times a year, an organization gathers its team to focus on work that can be difficult to accomplish remotely. Though this type of retreat can certainly improve remote work productivity, it isn’t doing as much as you might think for remote work employee engagement.Consider upping the ante by holding the event in a unique location, doing it much more often, and “unschedule” the schedule a bit. Our company hosts hacker houses in different countries every month, providing team members the opportunity to connect, work, and explore new locations together.
We’ve also found it beneficial to pull in employees from different teams from different parts of the country to create a more collaborative organization and encourage knowledge sharing. The experience can be invigorating.
Workspace optimization entails so much more than equipment and environment. Interactions, inclusivity, and flexibility all play critical roles. Focus a little bit less on space optimization techniques and a little bit more on remote work employee engagement to maintain everyone’s motivation and productivity.
Written by Ryan Chartrand. Here’s what you’ve missed?
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