How do you increase workforce productivity during the current COVID-19 pandemic? Workforce/labor productivity is defined as "the ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input.” It is the amount of goods and services that a worker produces in a given period of time. A business may measure productivity by the number of units produced within an hour and the number of sales calls made within a day or the amount of dollars placed by new investors within a quarter.
It is much easier to monitor the productivity of your people within a controlled environment such as inside a production plant or at the office. You can track their production by the hour, day, or month and quickly identify issues that may be affecting their efficiency.
However, how do you monitor workforce productivity when your employees are on a work-from-home arrangement? What are the ways to increase productivity in a business that has been affected by a government-imposed quarantine?
Set up effective communication channels
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced about 20% of the global population to submit to a lockdown. Governments around the world only allow essential businesses and priority services such as health and social services, banking, and food production to operate. Non-essential businesses have started adopting work-from-home (WFH) policies.
How do we make employees more efficient while on a WFH arrangement? Make sure that your employees have access to reliable communication channels. They should have a desktop computer or a laptop, a landline or a mobile phone, and any other device needed to perform their work. Some companies even provide their employees with an Internet allowance.
Moving forward, setting up effective communication channels for WFH arrangements should be part of your business continuity plan.
Call for regular virtual meetings
These extraordinary times are stressful to many people, not only to those in the frontline. Many are not used to staying at home for long periods of time. For employees unfamiliar with a WFH arrangement, they may have difficulties keeping their schedules and delivering their work. Their environment indoors may be too comfortable to think about doing work proactively and productively.
How to increase employee productivity during the lockdown? Schedule regular virtual meetings preferably at the start of the workday. This is to set the right mood for the entire team. Give a rundown of the pending tasks; ask for updates on on-going campaigns, and discuss future activities. Regular virtual meetings are a way of reminding everyone to stay in work mode during official work hours.
Learn to delegate tasks to qualified people
Business owners of small and medium enterprises have the tendency to handle as many tasks as they can. While this may seem ideal, it does not help improve workforce productivity. Also, your time and skills as the head of the organization are better dedicated to priority tasks.
Delegate responsibilities to qualified employees. This will boost the efficiency of your team and give your employees the opportunity to gain and learn project leadership skills. When you delegate tasks, allow your people to resolve issues on their own. Avoid micro-managing them, especially while they are working offsite. This can cause unnecessary pressure, not to mention defeating the very purpose of delegation.
Choose efficient tools and apps
Reading and responding to emails take up nearly 28% of a worker's time, according to a McKinsey study. It is the second-most time-consuming activity for employees, after their primary tasks. For more efficient team coordination, you can use social networking tools, like Slack and Workplace. Consider skipping the tedious email exchanges and have a quick phone call or video conference via Zoom to settle matters.
Always remember that time is essential in promoting employees' efficiency and effectiveness. Eliminate unnecessary tasks, no matter how small. You and your team should focus your time and attention on important activities.
Match responsibilities to skills
Are you wondering why your extroverted employee is not very productive during desk work but is hitting goals when out prospecting for clients? To boost productivity in your team, match tasks to your employee’s skills. You cannot expect your employees to be amazing at everything. Even if several talented workers are able to perform multiple tasks, it will be too taxing to give them more tasks than their peers. This will likely hurt their efficiency and morale.
Know your team well. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each team member? What are their personalities? Who will partner on projects better with whom? Match tasks to skills as well as personalities to increase workforce productivity.
Schedule weekly online trainings
This period of WFH arrangements is perfect for activities that you have been delaying such as training. Regular employee training is important for every organization. Many large companies develop specialized training for every department and job role. However, this may be too costly for small and medium enterprises. Your option is online education by a reputable training/education firm.
Having online training during the massive lockdown is a smart way of boosting efficiency and keeping employees in work mode. Since online courses are accessible anytime, your people can set their own pace, depending on their availability. They can listen to two hours of lecture, then take a 15-minute coffee break before resuming. Self-paced learning can help improve memory retention and suit different learning styles.
Develop a suitable productivity measurement
What is productivity in business? Business productivity means boosting your production output with the same resources. It is “doing more with the same,” in contrast to business efficiency which is “doing the same with less.” Productivity measurement is tied with performance. It is concerned with how your business can get more units of output per labor hour, per machine or per kilo or pound of materials than your competitors.
To increase workforce productivity, develop productivity measurement techniques that are suitable for your organization. These tactics should be made useful on WFH arrangements and onsite work. Use this time to shop for time tracking and project management software. Your team may also collaborate and develop your own productivity metrics.
These are extraordinary times. This is probably the first in the Internet era when a large number of people are forced to stay indoors. Many refer to this as a vast remote work experiment.
Many companies not allowed to operate at their places of business opt for WFH arrangements. If you are able to conduct business offsite, it is imperative to maintain and increase workforce productivity. Make sure everyone is in work mode when they need to be, but aspire to strike a work-life balance. And just because your people are working at home does not mean that you should demand overtime work. Observe the normal operating hours as much as possible. Remember that these are stressful times. Do not add to the anxiety of your workers, as stress will only hurt your team's productivity.