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How to enable employee productivity in a virtual workplace

What should organisations do differently in a virtual setup to ensure high employee productivity? Here is what we suggest:

New Delhi |
August 13, 2021 12:43:48 pm
work from home employee prodcutivity mental well beingEmployee productivity is influenced by several factors such as the physical office infrastructure and the work atmosphere, clearly defined goals and processes, and tools and policies that can take care of employees’ needs. (Representative Image/Pixabay)

Written by Lax Gopisetty

The COVID-19 pandemic sent organisations scrambling to discover ways in which they could resolve the conundrum of ensuring employee productivity in the absence of the physical office space. Interestingly, data from the past one year reveals varied stories about productivity. A 2020 survey report by Gartner stated that only 13 per cent of the business leaders were worried about productivity in a remote environment and that 82 per cent of the respondents intended to permit remote working some of the time.

The future belongs to a hybrid work model, where different industries will be adopting varying degrees of remote working. Organisations must adopt new ways of enhancing employee productivity in the new normal.

Employee productivity – What makes it tick

Employee productivity is influenced by several factors such as the physical office infrastructure and the work atmosphere, clearly defined goals and processes, and tools and policies that can take care of employees’ needs. In recent times, the well-being of employees has become another important criterion.

Individual circumstances and demographics directly impact productivity. Family has become an influencer as people work from their bedrooms or dining tables. For example, for employees residing with increased family obligations, efficiency takes a hit despite best capabilities.

Employees who operate out of urban areas are likely to have better access to infrastructure. The job role is another important criterion – an individual contributor might work more easily in a remote environment as compared to a role that requires collaboration.

It’s all about innovation and correlation – Redefining productivity in a new normal

In the pre-COVID times, it was convenient for organisations to provide an environment that had a collective impact on the employees working together in the office. In a hybrid work model, it is important to view an employee’s workday through human-centric lenses.

The new normal has moved from distributed agile to displaced agile. A day’s activities fall under different buckets. These include business-related deliverables, collaborative experiences such as meetings or coffee breaks, and personal time such as driving to office. In the remote work setup, the line between these activities is getting blurred, which is taking a toll on efficiency.

What should organisations do differently in a virtual setup to ensure high employee productivity?

Here is what we suggest:

Shift from 9 to 5 work to anytime, anywhere – Recreating the office experience

As homes morph into home offices, the overlap between work and personal lives has increased. Enterprises are acknowledging that every employee is different with varying challenges and motivation factors. Earlier, enterprises emphasized on process adherence. Now it is about output, outcome, availability, flexibility, and personal circumstances.

Earlier, the inability to collaborate seamlessly online prevented remote working. Today, several tools are available to help companies make this shift effortlessly. Next-Gen cloud-based offerings such as Infosys Cobalt have emerged to create interactive, immersive experiences and equip teams to function effectively in a virtual environment.

From being watched to being facilitated – Technology as an enabler, not surveillance

Using technology as a surveillance mechanism can often impact productivity adversely. Instead, one must redesign HR policies with a focus on outcome-based measurements. Monitoring software must be used to understand the life of an employee — what activities are taking up most of their time, whom are they interacting with, and use this data to provide the necessary tools and build a culture that reduces stress, builds trust, and encourages employees to deliver more.

Enhancing human capabilities – Recognise the cultural shift

Moving to a remote work environment calls for fundamental changes in employee attributes. While self-discipline, high EQ, and empathy are great qualities to possess, it is important to recognise that human nature requires time to evolve. We need to provide tools that help in developing the right attitude towards work. Self-tracking apps that study work habits and provide insights to improve productivity, well-being, and personal development of individual employees can prove to be very effective.

A strategy that focuses more on outcome and facilitates greater flexibility to workforce and empowers them to deliver their best will be needed as we move towards a new flexible work model post pandemic.

Lax Gopisetty is Vice President, Global Practice Head for Microsoft Business Applications & Digital Workplace Services at Infosys.

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