Working from home may be permanent for some employees and companies, given the current circumstances. Some may have cracked the code on maintaining productivity while working from home, but it’s no simple task for others.
According to the 2020 Eagle Hill Consulting COVID-19 Employee Burnout Survey, about 58% of U.S. workers reported experiencing burnout at their jobs since the pandemic hit. Before COVID-19, 44% of employees were experiencing burnout at some point in their careers, according to a Human Capital Institute study.
In recent blog posts and resources, we’ve advised HR leaders and managers to prioritize mental health in the workplace, provided tips on how to maintain workplace culture and team bonding, and how to manage your remote teams effectively. However, it’s essential to think about your workforce’s productivity. Are they more productive working from home? Are they experiencing a lack of motivation and focus? Are they juggling too many projects and feel like they cannot say “no” to more tasks and projects? Maintaining productivity is one of the most effective ways to avoid employee burnout. Here are some tips, some of which are from Emtrain employees, that can help.
Cut Out Time for Deliverables
What happens when employees are slammed with back to back meetings all day? Deliverables and action items pile up, forcing some people to work through the night or cut time out of their weekend. Emtrain recently initiated ‘No-Meeting Wednesdays,’ which prevents employees from overbooking and allows time to play catch up and work on their projects. Employees will feel a sense of relief each week when they see a day without meetings and focus on getting things done on time.
Calendars Are Your Best Friend
We leverage our calendars to book meetings, but why not block time to work on a project or task. Managers should encourage their team members to block out certain times of the day to work on a specific project; that way, a meeting will get booked out of nowhere, and they have time to focus. But don’t forget to block out time for breaks, too! If teams are struggling with schedules and allocating time, send them this sample WFH schedule to give them a start.
Making a List, Checking it Twice
During team meetings and check-ins, encourage everyone to have their list of projects and tasks ready so that managers can help prioritize projects for the week. Employees at Emtrain create a list of to-do’s for the day or week to keep track of all their action items and refer back to that list when they get off-task. It is proven that creating lists, whether in a notebook, in a task management tool, or on a Google Doc, helps with productivity.
“I have to work from a list and mentally remind myself to return to that list. That has been my M.O. for Wednesdays so that I can keep myself moving forward.” – Gretchen Jones de Bardales, Client Success Representative
Carve Out Time for Projects
Managers and their employees should always be on the same page about priorities, how long a project will take, and who is working on what. When identifying projects and establishing project owners, figure out with your team how long a task will take from start to finish. Work with your employees to identify any potential bottlenecks and challenges that may come their way on a particular project.
“I recommend really trying to get a sense of how long projects/tasks take when you are focused, so you know how to budget your time appropriately and then can judge if you under or overestimate the time you allotted to get something done. If something takes way longer, you may need to reach out for help, or you may catch yourself getting distracted easily and need to change up what you are doing.” – Kate Tucker, Director of People Operations
Set to Do Not Disturb
Some employees have roommates, some live with their parents, or some have kids, but whatever the home situation may be, it can distract from work. On top of that, employees get chat messages or phone calls throughout the day, making everything seem overwhelming. Advise employees to have Do Not Disturb on when they need to care for their family or heads down on a project. Also, some employees use noise-canceling headphones or regular earbuds. If your company is giving employees a stipend to set up their home office space, advise them to invest in noise-canceling headphones if it’s suitable for their needs and home life.
“Noise-canceling headphones/ear pods are my best friend. They cut out background noise, reducing distractions, and everyone in my house knows that if I am wearing them, to leave me alone, I am in Work Mode and not to disturb me.” – Gabe Vargas, Customer Support Manager
Mental Check-Ins and BreaksAre Always Essential
Sometimes we don’t realize that we are sitting in front of a computer for hours. Remind employees to check in with themselves every hour or so and to take a break when they start to feel overwhelmed or burnt out during the day. Video calls can be exhausting, so encourage them to break away from the computer after the call. Managers should also remind their teams to take breaks every once in a while via a group chat or simply ask “Have you had lunch yet?”
“I set my watch and phone reminders for movement at least every hour (Pomodoro Method: intense focus for 20 minutes, followed by 5 – 10 minutes of rest, movement, recharge, all day) (2) calendar time to reconnect with people in my network several times/week (3) limit meetings and other focus disruptors for an entire day each week (4) frequent floor time/playtime/cuddles with my dogs and (5) HYDRATE – a big pitcher of lemon water by my side every day.” – Elizabeth Bohannon, Workplace Advisor & Employment Law Expert
Remember, there is a difference between being productive and being busy. Sometimes busy work isn’t always productive. By utilizing these tips, you and your workforce can sustain productivity and keep each other in check.
We hope these tips find you and your workforce helpful. We’d love to hear your thoughts! Join our community on LinkedIn, #AlwaysLearning and share your tips.