Measuring the Productivity of Remote Workers

5 min. read

Tens of millions of Americans work from home, which means that measuring the productivity of remote workers has become more critical than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic took the ability to work remotely from a rare perk to a standard operating procedure for many companies. It appears remote work opportunities are a permanent way of doing business for many businesses, and there are natural concerns about this shift. Therefore, a handful of companies started measuring the productivity of remote workers to find areas for improvement short and long term.

The Positives and Drawbacks of Remote Work

The positive aspects of allowing for remote work are clear:

  • Many employees appreciate this option
  • There’s usually a better work/life balance
  • Most workers report being more productive
  • No wasted time on commutes
  • The ability to hire a great team regardless of any geographical limitations

However, these positives don’t exist in a vacuum; remote work also has drawbacks.

One of the most often cited drawbacks is the difficulty in measuring the productivity of remote work. Managers want employees to feel trusted but, at the same time, want to ensure they’re being appropriately productive. Often, companies worry that workers will not be as productive as they were in the office without direct in-person oversight.

Look at Output Instead of Rigid Inputs

One of the best ways to ensure you can measure the productivity of remote work is to focus on the output. Instead of feeling as though you need to micromanage, ensuring a worker is logged into their email every minute of their shift, look at what’s getting accomplished.

There is no single answer for every company or even every manager. Some jobs may necessitate being available on a strict 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. schedule, especially if that job requires quick turnaround time for customer communication or urgent tasks. But many jobs do not need such a rigid schedule.

Think about what each person’s role requires:

  • If the outputs are to your standards, does it matter if some of that work got done outside ‘normal’ working hours?
  • Does it matter if that employee took an hour off for a dentist visit?
  • Does it matter if they are away from their desks from 3 - 3:30 p.m. most days for school pick-up?

There is no right or wrong answer here; it is for you to evaluate.

Put Systems in Place

One of the best ways of measuring the output of remote work is to put systems in place.

For some companies, each day starts with a priority email from each team member. They list their goals for the day and week; they may also report on their progress from the day before. When you know what each team member is working on, it’s easier to measure whether they’re focusing on the correct tasks and whether you feel their workload is appropriate.

Other teams prefer using productivity tools like Slack or Asana, which can give real-time visibility to managers and peers. Don’t guess whether remote workers are being productive; find meaningful ways to have visibility into whether they are.

Set Expectations

Before you focus on measuring the productivity of remote work, make sure that each worker knows what you expect them to be working on.

One potential downside of remote work is less direct accessibility to their managers, which may reduce time spent discussing expectations. In-office, grabbing 5 minutes with your boss and checking in on a project can be easy. However, a remote worker can easily go days without that same type of touchpoint. Sometimes, inevitably left out, remote workers risk feeling vague about direction.

Make an extra effort to set expectations with your remote workforce, collaborating with them on time management, project planning, and communication with essential team members.

Managing remote work poses a unique set of challenges. Not only can it be trickier to measure productivity, but it can also be harder to gauge worker happiness. However, remote workers can be some of your most loyal and productive employees when measured and managed well. To ensure your workforce is thriving with your current business structure, contact us for a demo of our worker happiness assessment tools.