Tag Archives: productivity

The Surprising Effects of Long-Term Remote Work

“It happens every time.  The same people talk and everyone else stays quiet.” 

Does this sound like your zoom meetings?  Have you noticed that the same people keep contributing to meetings while the rest fade into silent observers?  Have you asked your team members if they feel frustrated? 

A year into the pandemic, there is a lot of talk about the stress and isolation resulting from remote work, but there are more subtle problematic effects that may last long after the stay-at-home orders are lifted.  If you act now, you may be able to reduce the impact.

Reduced Creativity and Innovation

Are you marginalizing some employees in meetings?  If so, the team may be missing out on alternative perspectives that could inhibit creativity and innovation. In any meeting, face-to-face or virtual, it is important to make sure a variety of people are contributing to hear challenges to ideas, different angles that may not have been considered, and questions that may have not been asked.  When people remain silent, the status quo becomes the norm.

Recommendation: Rotate who leads the meetings and add facilitation processes to make sure everyone participates and people’s ideas are not shot down prematurely. Consider asking for people’s input ahead of time to give less extroverted people a chance to think and be heard.

Decreased Efficiency

Better qualified people could be making the decisions and getting the work done.  Often it is the leaders who speak but they are not necessarily the ones who are closest to the tasks or who best understand the issues.  It may be that others should be talking and raising issues upward rather than listening to decisions made by their leaders and feeling powerless to influence them.

Recommendation: Examine whether decisions can be pushed lower to free up leaders to do other things. Create an agenda prior to the meeting that includes the names and/or roles of people that have relevant information, knowledge, experience, and/or proximity to the issues being discussed. Facilitate the meeting to make sure they are heard. 

Lower Productivity

One of the biggest complaints about remote work is the number of meetings people have to go to and how they don’t have time to get their work done.  This is often an issue in normal times, but the quantity of meetings during the pandemic has skyrocketed.  It may be because people are dispersed and don’t have casual conversations anymore or because it’s so much easier to all pop onto a call than to travel to a conference room or because people are afraid of missing out on something when they are isolated at home.  The result, however, is that, when so many people are sitting in a meeting and are not being engaged, they are likely wasting their time. 

Recommendation: Talk to your team members about how they feel they can best use their time.  Create communication channels that keep people informed, such as sharing meeting minutes, having a point of contact, or creating subgroups that report back to the larger group less frequently.

Exclusive Culture

We are at a time where inclusivity is key to recruiting, engaging, and retaining high quality employees.  When you don’t see people day-to-day in the office, you may fall victim of the “out of sight out of mind” adage.  Whether intentionally or not, you may leave people out of meetings and decisions.  If employees feel excluded from the conversations, they are likely to “check out” and eventually quit.  That is the best-case scenario.  If they feel they are being discriminated against, they may take legal action. 

Recommendation: Examine how you and others determine who should be in meetings, who is on the agenda to speak, how the discussion is facilitated, as well as who has not spoken up, who is not at the meeting, and who you have not connected with one-on-one recently.  Ask your team members for their observations and feelings about participation in conversations and decisions.

Frayed Relationships

Remote work environments lend themselves to more task-oriented approaches.  Have you noticed, for example, that people tend to show up for meetings at the precise start time and leave abruptly and there is no time to chat?  Have you noticed less humor?  Do you feel that you haven’t really spent time with the people you work with over the past year other than in meetings? 

Recommendation: Dedicate part of each workweek to relationship building.  You will likely find that a little time invested in relationships saves a lot of wasted time due to poor communication and lack of trust.  It may seem strange at first to ask people to show up to social meetings during the workday and some people may reject your requests.  Stay at it and tell them explicitly how much you value your relationship with them and how important it is for you to spend time supporting each other on a personal level.

There are many ways to address these negative effects of prolonged remote work. The important thing is to notice when they are happening and take action to reverse them.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

NetworkingHow likely are you to lose your key employees?

According to Gallup, only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. And only about one in five say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. What’s worse, 51% of employees are actively looking for new jobs.  The answer is, you are very likely to lose an employee very soon.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

What does it cost to replace an employee?  The range is large, but it is expensive at any level.  Studies show it can cost 20% of a low-to-mid-range position and more than 200% of a high-level or executive position.  Let’s look at the numbers.  The cost to replace a mid-range administrative manager being paid $40k would be about $8k.  But the cost of a highly educated contributor, director, or executive who’s paid over $200k would be over $400k.

What goes into calculating turnover costs?

  • Hiring (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring)
  • Onboarding (training and management time)
  • Lost productivity (months, years to match a high performer’s level of performance)
  • Low team engagement (other employees are affected when someone leaves)
  • Customer service and errors (new people don’t know what they’re doing and make mistakes)

The costs may be much greater in your company, especially if a key person leaves at a critical time.  Missing a release deadline could cost the company funding or market share.  Lost knowledge could cause a faulty product to be released.

How will you keep your best people?

The top way to keep employees today is to engage them.  This means allowing them to do meaningful work that helps them grow.  When people are doing something that matters and are growing in the process, they are likely to stay.

Sixty percent of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them.  The problem is that people often don’t know what they do best, and it’s even harder for their employers to know.  The solution is to assess what people’s natural talents are and let them do work where they apply them.

A fun way to assess people’s natural talents is in a team-building session where people self-assess and share their talents with their team members.  People get excited about their discoveries and they learn how to better engage each other in projects.

If you are leading a team and you want to keep your key players, you may want to give our Strengthen Your Team Team-Building Activity a try.  It costs only a small fraction of what it costs to lose someone, and it will pay back even more in terms of the increased productivity and engagement of your team.  You will also have fun discovering how your own natural talents come into play.

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Is Your Company Suffering from the Tech Effect?

Teacher and schoolchildren studying in front of a computerRemember when computerized communication technology first came into being?  If you’re too young to know what that was like, it was magical!  We went from waiting impatiently for the mail carrier or staying near the phone to receiving emails and texts in minutes or seconds.  We went from wading through file cabinets and encyclopedias to getting information instantaneously from the internet.  We went from living in siloed communities to being globally connected.  Think about it: we now can access just about anyone or anything at any time!

But, have you noticed how the magic is starting to wear off and anxiety is moving in?

Woman Buying Train Ticket Using Vending Machine At StationBusiness leaders are finding their enterprises rely too much on technology and not enough on people.  Employees are suffering from overwork, owners have lost control over what their employees are doing and saying about their companies, and the general public is suffering from social media addiction.

There’s a longing to slow things down and go back to the personal principles and values that made companies grow and operate better, such as culture and reputation.  Customers and employees are also crying out for privacy, to protect their personal information and to go back to having control of what they share with others.

Ironically, communication technology is the driver of many communication problems.  People are feeling more isolated than ever before, company reputations are suffering, and conflict is rising—and it is costing companies a lot of money.Woman in computer room using personal digital assistant

  • Employees lose an average of one day of work per week to their phones—and they’re getting paid for that day. Nearly 50 percent of people say they can’t live without their phones, which people on average check every 12 minutes and touch 2,600 times a day.
  • American businesses are losing $62 billion per year from poor customer service, according to Forbes Magazine, because of autoresponders and pre-recorded help messages or remote call centers with people who don’t speak the language well.
  • Tesla’s stock dropped over eight percent in a day in response to Elon Musk tweeting he was thinking about taking the company private. Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet cost over $1 billion and 200 people lost their jobs from cancelling all of her shows.

Aggressive furious businessman shouting and working with computer in officeThese problems all have one thing in common, what I call the tech effect.  The tech effect occurs when communication technology loses its human focus and/or the people who use communication technology lose their human focus.  It’s when people communicate with their screens in the form of makeshift messages to ephemeral followers and measure reactions in quantities, instead of building relationships with people.

How do we combat the tech effect?  We need to get the people back in.  Business leaders need to change the culture in their companies to be more human-centered, modify structures and practices within their companies to increase employee and customer engagement and loyalty, and promote healthy, humane work practices and products that sell.

How do we do this?  I have lots of ideas and systematic solutions.  Stay tuned for more on the tech effect