By Michele Don Durbin, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Evernote
The huge rise in hybrid working in the UK brought about by the impact of Covid-19 has seen workers spend part of their time at the workplace and part of their time working remotely at home. Even as some businesses in the UK have begun to welcome more employees back to offices, hybrid working remains a popular model for large firms, which will keep flexible working arrangements for the foreseeable future.
The benefits of home working include more flexibility for staff members in their work/life balance and little or no time or money spent each week commuting. But there are challenges for employers when implementing home working, such as how to ensure fairness, inclusion, collaboration, and productivity. For instance, research shows that 30% of workers said that their productivity had fallen since they began working at home after the onset of the pandemic. Here are some practical tips businesses can follow to maximise productivity and make the most of home working.
Restructure your interview process
Working from home requires stronger communication skills than working under supervision in an office, which is why your hiring process needs to seek out those who can thrive working remotely. One easy way to identify an ideal remote employee is to add a simple step during the phone screen before you move into the standard interview process.
Remote employees must be adept at listening carefully and then following up accurately. Start your interview with a short, thirty-minute phone call to see how well your candidate communicates. How well do they listen and then answer clearly? Do they ask for clarification, or trudge ahead hoping they’ll say something that resonates? It’s a lot harder to do this well when body language and other non-verbal cues are absent.
During the same interview, ask the candidate to answer two simple questions by email, rather than verbally. Instruct the candidate to repeat each of your two questions in the email response and use no more than five sentences to answer each question. It doesn’t really matter what the candidate writes (though it’s bound to add more insight). The important part is whether they understood the assignment and followed the instructions accurately. If a candidate doesn’t listen well during an interview on the phone, you may end up spending time repeating yourself or needing to double check their follow-through.
Use the right channels for communication and collaboration
If your house was on fire, would you email the fire service? Of course not. You would ring 999. It’s the same for communicating within a business – you and your team need to pick the right channel for the right type of communication.
Team members should decide together which communications should happen on which specific channels. This will help you all to meet deadlines and build the trust that is essential for success. Different tools can help make this easier. You might use Slack for high-priority and time sensitive discussions. Email might be primarily for one-directional announcements or updates. And a platform like Evernote could house company and team-wide information needed for collaboration, project management and meeting notes. This clarity will make it much easier for your team to hit deadlines and meet all your team’s commitments.
Also, remote workers can’t quickly and easily ask the person on the desk next to them to clarify something they don’t understand. Encourage everyone to not to be afraid to seek clarification or ask a question if something isn’t clear to them.
Make small steps to improve productivity
We now spend 80% of our time collaborating or replying to emails and messages or in meetings, which leaves little time for actual work. So, why not try to make your team’s meetings a little bit shorter?
Although your calendar may default to creating 30-minute or 60-minute meetings, they don’t necessarily need to always be that long. By shortening meeting times and changing your calendar settings to default to 25-minute or 50-minute meetings, you can add back hours of time in your week to work on your most important tasks.
Using a tool like Evernote to manage all your meetings can be a game-changer. You already take notes for meetings, sometimes sharing, often assigning action items and planning the next agenda. All too often though, with information in different systems – from handwritten notebooks to white boards – the follow-up and even decisions can get lost. With Evernote, everyone connects their workplace calendar to Evernote, so that their notes and schedule are automatically linked and organized and easily found in the same place as their tasks, project plans and workflows.
Avoid information overload
According to research from the Harvard Business Review, a knowledge worker gets interrupted, or switches tasks every three to five minutes on average. This leads to an unhealthy brain overload and exhaustion as well as the feeling of constant interruption.
This means you should learn to protect your attention, which is vital to becoming more productive, whether working at home or in the office. You and your team can create an operating agreement about the best days and times for collaboration, meetings and being available, and which times need to be protected for solo work.
Even without a team agreement, setting aside blocks of uninterrupted time in your own calendar is a great first step for protecting time when you’re at your best for the tasks that are most mentally draining and need the most concentration.
Ultimately, by following these tips your business will see a notable difference in your ability to complete tasks, feel less overwhelmed and more productive by making the most of home working.