By Wayne Turmel, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute
Whenever I talk to people who telecommute or work from home, I hear, “I am so much more productive at home. I get all my work done without interruption.”
That’s great, and it’s important. But when I ask them if they’re more productive, they look at me like I have three heads. “Of course, I am. I get more done.” But that’s not the same thing as true productivity.
Some time ago, Harvard Business School did a study on productivity and found that people who work from home, or at least remotely, tend to get more tasks finished in a given period than people who work in the office surrounded by co-workers and (more important) their boss. Those workers tend to get interrupted, sucked into discussions and other activities that distract from finishing what’s on their to-do list. That said, people who worked co-located with others tended to score higher in things like “seeing obstacles before they arise,” troubleshooting problems, and more. Those are all critical to true productivity.
Fast isn’t always better and communication is key
The fact is, you can complete a task uninterrupted, but without feedback and input from others, you may find yourself working hard on something that doesn’t meet the full requirements of your customers (internal or external), and you’ll need to revise or redo it. If you finish a task quickly, but then have to engage in rework or stop completely to overhaul your work when you’re half-finished, you’ve lost some of that productivity.
If you’re working remotely, take the time to check in with your boss and co-workers. If you have a question or concern, don’t be shy about using instant messaging, internal blogs, Sharepoint or other tools to check assumptions and answer questions.
If your boss asks you, “How’s it going?” don’t just say “Fine,” and be done with it. Be specific about what is going well, what questions you have, and any challenges that might come up. Sometimes we act like we receive extra points for getting off the phone quickly. We don’t.
If you are in the office, but working with someone remotely, be proactive when reaching out. It only takes a few seconds to answer a question or offer an opinion. If you hear hesitation or a question in someone’s voice on a conference call, check in. Active listening, paraphrasing and effective questioning can uncover problems that often result in frustration and rework. Don’t be shy about using video, too. You’d be surprised how much more honest people are when they’re looking each other in the eyes.
Productivity is a long-term measurement that involves the completion of tasks, but also the ultimate success of a project or piece of work. Completing a task quickly, only to have to do it again or fix it, isn’t really productive.
Ramp up your productivity
If you want to take your team’s productivity to the next level, attend the “Maximizing Your Productivity as a Remote Employee’ course on November 8. Better yet, have your employees join you as well. You will all walk away with strategies for making the most of the hours you spend working each day. Learning objectives include:
- The danger of the “Activity Trap” and how to avoid it
- Create a home office that sets you up for success
- The “4 Productivity Pivots” that can improve your productivity big time
- Eliminating time-sucking distractions and keeping your focus
- Managing your calendar, creating an action plan, and so much more!
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It: A Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar.
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