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Individuals and data will guide the way to better remote work

“People need to undertake deliberate practice to build new habits and muscles to get the full value of any change.”
BCG
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
— Dr. Seuss

In short

Remote work has forced us to work differently on collaborative tasks, and we’re working harder. Attempts by some organizations to embrace this change have been fraught with challenges, but, overall, this massive change in our work conditions opens up an opportunity to improve. “Bottoms up” initiatives by individual leaders and high-trust teams, armed with data, can provide a solution and guide the way for their respective organizations.

Half as productive on collaborative tasks

Despite some successes on individual tasks, a BCG survey of 12,000 professionals reports that just under half report they are as productive on collaborative tasks when working remotely.

 

Is the reason we’re all working less?

Early in the pandemic, there was a spike in deployments of employee monitoring software to ensure that their employees were working while remote. At Punch, we never believed this was the right approach. Research shows that companies that do not take the care to implement monitoring tools thoughtfully may face longer term employee engagement issues.

In general, we feel that products like Microsoft Workplace Analytics, Slack Analytics, and Google Workspace Work Insights have done a decent job positioning their products within their platforms, but their single vendor support strategy ignores the space between the communications platforms.

Despite some “tops-down” suspicion of actual reduction in work, evidence doesn’t show that the lack of work was the reason for lost productivity.

Actually, employees are working more

According to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, meetings increased by 13%. the number of participants went up by 14%, the number of emails went up by 5%, and there was an 8% durable increase in the workday.

 

 

So, in aggregate, employees were working harder but had not likely adopted new practices to attain the same levels of productivity.

How employers compensate

What was the response by employers? According to a recently published LinkedIn post, communication was the most commonly listed job skill requirement listed for in job postings during June and July. In the absence of establishing new work routines, behaviors, and practices for remote work, one view is that many employers were simply responding by requiring more communications skills so that people could talk more often, email more often, and work more after hours. For all of this activity, most are operating in the dark without any comparative data of this activity either within their organizations or across organizations.

Individuals and data to the rescue

Many individual remote workers and high-trust teams see these macro trends every day and are experimenting with new practices, whether they be virtual water coolers, using new meeting moderation features to create psychological safety in virtual meetings, or practices like silent meetings that I wrote about in my last blog article. For some organizations, scaling new best practices across an entire enterprise requires that individual leaders first take initiative in the workplace and to both investigate and support that initiative with data, even starting with simple measures, including measuring of back-to-back meetings, coordinating different types of work over complicated schedules, and evaluating meeting effectiveness.

And this ties into our mission at Punch — to use data to advance the future of work, which will be better, more enjoyable, and more productive for the teams that work well remotely. We believe that supporting individuals in the best way requires a few key elements:

Watch this space to find out how you can get started!