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    How do you ensure productivity in remote work schemes?

    With social distancing the catchphrase of the times, public and private companies locally and overseas are implementing work from home. In the Philippines, where the government has put the entire island of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government work is largely suspended while most private establishments enforce remote work. 

    As organizations undertake measures to ensure business continuity without endangering their workforce, the rapid response and creativity of managers will be key to ensuring an easy transition to a new work setup with minimal or zero disruption in operations and business processes. Managers know what works best for their teams and can tap into this knowledge to make adjustments seamless, deliver results and maintain business viability amid this uncertain period.

    Robert Walters, a global recruitment specialist group headquartered in England and with regional offices in Southeast Asia, shares tips on how businesses and organizations can ensure efficiency and productivity even while working from home.

    Be clear on the work arrangement

    Guidelines on how to execute a new work setup are vital, especially for employees who will be working from home for the first time. A clear plan can mean the difference between disrupted work and continuous operation. 

    Robert Walters urges managers to execute a contingency plan for remote work or customize an approach that works best for their teams, and to announce such plan as soon as possible during an emergency to avoid confusion as to how work should be conducted. This plan should include how reporting will be done, how meetings with clients may be conducted and what other changes will be implemented during the temporary work arrangement. 

    Some employees experiencing a disruption in their regular office schedule – stuck at home alone with no more water cooler chats and lunchtime banter with colleagues – might feel alienated by the lack of structure in a new schedule. Managers are expected to rise to the occasion and guide their employees in establishing a new daily setup and parameters for ensuring deliverables are met. Preset weekly KPIs, regular calls or even video conferences will be of great help in keeping everyone updated and sustaining the team spirit, especially for highly collaborative jobs. These also foster a sense of normalcy. 

    At Robert Walters, managers make sure to check in with their team using text or Workplace chat for urgent matters, video conferencing tools such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom for daily check-in meetings and webinars instead of live events. With the majority of business operations temporarily moved online, technology is indeed every manager’s friend. 

    Ensure productivity

    Let’s face it: Out of sight, out of mind can be the case with many team members on remote work setup. Some staff could be carried away by being at home and neglect their tasks, thinking no one will be checking anyway. Managers and business heads must be ready to address this. 

    One way is through an output-based system that can be monitored online. Managers can do daily morning reviews for each team member either through a conference call or online group chat, clarifying deliverables to lessen the instances of delay and to have end-of-day catch-ups to check what they’ve accomplished. Make the most of free apps online for employee supervising and progress monitoring. 

    “Evaluating where the gaps are and focusing on results are very important. The team may be unable to meet present weekly KPIs as before given the stressful situation and change in most business operations, so it’s best to do a weekly analysis of activities that yield weak results and shift to a different approach that works for employees in this unique situation,” shared Andrea Dela Casa, associate director for Technology & Transformation/Sales & Marketing at Robert Walters. “It’s about having a mindset around agility and flexibility toward productivity more than just being operational. Leaders must know the pulse of the team and manage frustrations early. We should remember that this crisis is temporary, and we as leaders should create ways for the team to keep delivering results.”

    In addition to setting clear targets and monitoring employee output, Robert Walters recommends managers advise team members on ways of boosting productivity at home such as creating a dedicated workspace separate from communal areas to help avoid distractions. This separate home-office space aids team members to not only stay focused on a task but also to mentally keep an at-work mindset. 

    Be tech-ready 

    Lack of proper office equipment and an unstable internet connection are two challenges some employees could face if tasked to work from home. These can be exacerbated by the lack of access to company data essential to operations. 

    Managers and team leads can make an audit of the technical requirements of their respective teams on a regular basis. This helps prepare them for any emergency as they know what their team members have, do not have and will need in case they have to work remotely. 

    “Preparedness for sudden changes in the work setup is what sets good managers apart from the rest. Business continuity strategies and contingency plans laid out even without a pandemic determines the future of a business,” said Dela Casa.

    Technical challenges such as internet problems and lack of data security, network access, and remote access to resources and files could cause major disruptions to the daily routine of employees. 

    Robert Walters has provided data plans and prepaid Wi-Fi to employees with internet connection problems at home during this period and encourages other employers to consider doing the same. All tools and intranet sites should be ready and accessible VPNs installed for employees to use even from the comforts of their homes. 

    Keep open communication

    In this digital age, keeping communication lines open has become a lot easier. Regular communication between managers and employees about work, each other’s well-being and other issues outside of work increases productivity and reduces professional isolation. It also strengthens team spirit, which can be even more difficult to build and sustain when people work apart. 

    Managers can utilize any of the suite of messaging and videoconferencing applications to constantly keep in touch with their teams. Ensuring that calls are a forum where employees can consult and share concerns with managers makes the communication even more successful, something Robert Walters does as consultant workforce is often very mobile and working from locations such as their clients’ office, cafes where they meet their clients or candidates and of course, home. For HR managers, a handy list of all the contact information of the whole company would be very useful. 

    With quality, integrity and teamwork at the heart of Robert Walters’ business operations, HR managers ensure employees are kept updated on the latest situation through their pre-outlined communications plan that includes a sophisticated archive of emails, contact information, and automated messages for clients and applicants. With technology that enables various teleconferencing or videoconferencing platforms for meetings and interviews, Robert Walters continues to stay in touch with the different stakeholders across various countries. Similarly, it is able to stay in touch with external clients and candidates using these tools in place of face-to-face interviews, which are discouraged to lessen the risk of contagion. 

    Effective and early employer intervention in the face of a pandemic could save lives and help companies and organizations earn the trust and loyalty of their employees at the same time. Dela Casa says: “Managers should know the pulse of the team and manage possible hurdles early on and manage them more efficiently. When planned and executed properly, teleworking could change the way we view and experience work while supporting company goals.”

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