Under normal circumstances, businesses would be able to plan a program for employees working from home that would optimize worker productivity. In fact, a study from Stanford University found that employees are more productive when they can work from home part-time. Moreover, the study found that employees were less likely to quit when their employer implemented a remote work program.
However, the stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) did not allow most government, education, and private employers to design a remote work plan. Instead, these employers were forced to adopt measures focused on safety rather than productivity.
With little to suggest when these stay-at-home orders will be lifted, employers are now faced with extended remote work programs. This uncertainty, however, allows employers to adjust how they support remote workers to address issues, such as productivity, that have arisen in the meantime.
Keeping Employees Working from Home Productive
The productivity gains found in the Stanford study relied on two factors that are missing from the stay-at-home orders.
- Home office: Employees participating in the study had a home office that was outfitted for work from home and was free from distractions.
- Periodic work in the office: Employees worked from home four days a week and worked at the office one day per week, which facilitated collaboration with other workers.
Providing Home Office Equipment
While employees’ living arrangements may or may not be able to support a separate working space, employers can still ensure that employees have adequate equipment to perform their job duties. For example, employees working from home may need:
- Computers: Computers require enough memory and processing speed to run business software applications or access cloud-based applications. Productivity may drop if the employee’s home computer is inadequate to run applications because of computer crashes and processing time-outs. Moreover, outdated computers and operating systems may be vulnerable to security threats like malware and hackers.
- Broadband Internet: Broadband internet is necessary to stream high volumes of data, such as video conferences, and exchange large files.
- Network hardware: In addition to broadband Internet service, a home office needs network hardware to handle Internet traffic. If the network hardware is inadequate, the remote worker will never be able to utilize the full bandwidth available. Moreover, network hardware is essential to securing the employer’s network from security threats originating in the employee’s network.
- Peripheral devices: Printers, scanners, fax machines, and other peripheral devices can create bottlenecks in an employee’s workflows. Since employees are unable to utilize equipment at the office, multi-function devices, or high capacity office equipment will be needed in their home offices.
Studies show that teams of workers are more engaged in their tasks, happier, and more successful than solitary workers. However, collaboration is difficult with remote workers.
In the Stanford study mentioned previously, remote workers had in-person meetings one day per workweek. Similar levels of collaboration, and the resultant productivity gains, can be reached with virtual meetings via video conferencing.
To facilitate video collaboration, employee home offices require:
- Communication devices: Whether by phone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer, employees need a device equipped with a camera, speakers, and screen to collaborate with peers remotely.
- Software: Very few video conferencing applications provide cross-compatibility. Consequently, an employer must choose an application for all its employees to use uniformly for their video conferencing.
Productivity can be adversely affected when employees lack the training to use the tools provided by their employers. That is, employees must know how to use the home office equipment and access all its features. Otherwise, they will waste time trying to figure out how to use the equipment or, worse yet, misuse the equipment creating repair, maintenance, or security problems for their employer.
Some examples of training that can be useful for remote employees include:
- Safe computer use: Remote work can make employees vulnerable to security risks. Shared computers and WiFi networks can open the employer’s network up to attacks. These attacks can originate from remote workers’ systems that have been hacked or infected with malware. For example, phishing attacks can deceive remote users into disclosing their credentials for accessing the employer’s network. Likewise, employees who forget to log out of their remote terminal leave a door open for hackers to enter the employer’s network.
- Software configuration: Applications and operating systems must be configured to operate safely and productively. For example, some of the security issues surrounding the video conferencing platform Zoom could be addressed by changing the application’s user settings.
- Equipment features: Employees who are provided printers, scanners, copiers, and fax machines may need a crash course in the use of the equipment, particularly if they typically hand off documents to another worker for processing.
Looking Ahead to Productive Work from Home
Employers risk a drop in productivity by assuming that either stay-at-home orders will be lifted soon or remote workers will be as productive as office workers without providing the tools they are accustomed to using. Acting proactively to support work from home with training, equipment, and opportunities for collaboration can minimize the risk of a drop off in productivity.
Contact us to discuss how equipment leases and rentals can keep remote employees productive.