How Companies Can Use Tech to Increase Productivity in New Work-from-Home Culture

Remote work can have a unique set of challenges for managers and employees alike.

But today’s technologies can make the implementation of work-from-home policies smooth — and some experts say may even lead to a permanent shift in the way businesses work.

“The first concern of a remote workforce often is ‘I have no management control anymore,’ ” said Moe Vela, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden and now chief transparency officer at TransparentBusiness, a remote working platform. “ ’I can’t see my employees. I don’t know what they’re doing.’ The good news is there is now technology to mitigate those concerns.”

The determining factor is the correct use of such tools. Vela has observed a tendency for remote-work newcomers to micromanage their staff, which impedes workflow and reduces productivity.

Many project management tools allow for greater visibility across a department or a company as a whole, but it can also inspire overzealous activity tracking. Trust in employee output and diligence is more critical with a remote workforce than in the office. Vela warns retailers and brands against overcommunicating or overusing tracking tools.

At TransparentBusiness, there is an emphasis on protecting employees as much as supporting managers in their oversight. Once an employee turns on the software, regular screenshots are taken to capture employee activity; these are fed into an algorithm to provide analysis on overall work performance for managers.

But employees retain the overriding power to choose which screenshots are saved and shared with their managers, and which are simply fed to the algorithm. Just as sales associates have work breaks and offices have break rooms, so should downtime be accepted as part of a work-from-home format.

“Too often, companies and management forget about privacy issues and invasiveness,” said Vela. “Yes, you need them to produce. Yes, you’re going to hold them accountable. But you also want to remind them that their safety and health and well-being is your highest priority as a manager in a company.”

The suite of digital tools available now, from video calls to instant message, makes open communication more manageable than in previous decades. But experts believe that the shift to working from home may have long-lasting implications for how companies conduct business going forward, if they can establish a good setup early on.

“It can save a company money,” said Vela. “A lot of companies give their employees commuting supplements; that goes away. And what about office space? That can be very expensive. But most important, from my expertise, you produce a happier workforce and a happier, more content workforce is both more productive and loyal.”

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