3 keys for remote staff to be productive, happy

| June 30, 2022

Everyone knows many offices are shifting to a hybrid workplace and many staff are working remotely on a weekly basis.  One of the big complaints during the pandemic lockdowns was the eight to ten hour days that staff worked nonstop with their eyes glued to a computer monitor. Research showed that this led to large amounts of burnout and staff that felt isolated.

The big question is how do we get remote staff to be productive and happy?  There are 3 key activity areas that can help them achieve both: work, recharge and relax.

Work Activity

When working remotely, the majority of activity needs to be on work tasks.  These tasks are generally easy to identify and include day to day responsibilities that people normally do in the office environment.  Remote staff need to complete the requirements of their role, including both working ‘in the business’ on short term immediate things that are due and working ‘on the business’ which involves longer term projects.

For most people a benefit of working remotely is they actually have more time to allocate toward work.  Research by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed during the pandemic that remote workers worked on average 48.5 more minutes per day.  This is one of the reasons why many researchers have shown productivity increased with the remote workforce—many people spent almost an extra hour a day working!

The real challenge for many workers’ happiness is how to balance our focus of work activity with other activities that we do while working from home in order to stay productive over time.

Recharge Activity

Have you ever noticed that after you have been working on a task for an intense period you feel a bit drained?  The amount of time you spend may be different for different tasks, but you reach a stage where it becomes hard to focus and continue forward momentum.  This is your body telling you that you need to do something to recharge your energy and thinking.

In the office we naturally take little breaks to help us recharge our thinking and activity.  This can include getting a cup of coffee or tea, grabbing a snack to eat or walking to a colleagues desk to have an informal discussion.  These mini breaks allow us to physically move, which creates a shift of energy.

In a normal office environment, we take these mini breaks regularly and it is viewed as natural. However, when people work remotely, they can often feel that taking a break equates to not doing work and wasting time.  This often encourages us to work too long before taking a break to recharge.

A recharge activity boosts our energy and lifts our focus on the work tasks that we need to do.  The key is to ensure that the recharge activity is a mini break that only takes a small amount of time.

Relax Activity

Remote workers also need time to just relax and stop working.  In an office environment this occurs during morning tea break and during lunch.  This is a natural time frame after you have been working and concentrating for two to three hours and need to take a break.  Surveying over 15,000 employees in 27 countries, QuickBooks found that the global average for a lunch break is 36 minutes in the US and 31 minutes in Australia. For most people taking a 30-45minute break allows them to relax.

Some studies have found that when people take a daily lunch break, they experience higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.  A challenge many found during the lockdowns with remote work is that they had so many video meetings for work that they did not have time for lunch.

For other remote workers that have early morning meetings, scheduling a break in the middle of the day to do something relaxing for themselves, like a 45minute walk or a yoga class, can also help them to get their energy back and allow them to return to work activity focused.

By helping remote staff understand and focus on the 3 types of activity we can improve both productivity and happiness.