Measuring Remote Workforce Productivity

Since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, companies have used an array of formulas to measure workforce productivity. These measures are typically expressed as a ratio of how much time, manpower and money it takes to complete a task or attain a goal. For example, a widget manufacturer might evaluate how many widgets the production team assembles each day.

Remote Work Requires New Methods to Measure Workforce Productivity

However, the global transition to remote work environments is causing organizations to rethink how they assess productivity. It’s even forcing them to reconsider what constitutes work.

In a pre-pandemic office setting, it was easier for managers to observe workers in action. With processes and tools standardized across the workforce, it was also easier to make generalized assumptions about what each worker ought to reasonably be able to accomplish during a typical 8-hour workday.

It’s why most organizations resisted flexible telework options — they feared losing control of the workforce. Without the ability to monitor when, how or what employees were working on, they expected productivity to plunge.

That has not been the case. Research suggests productivity actually improved since the move to remote work. One study of approximately 30,000 workers found productivity increased by 47 percent since the pandemic’s onset.

However, such studies don’t tell the whole story. Productivity may be up, but at what cost?

Why the Old Methods May Be Inaccurate

Research also suggests that remote employees are working longer hours and weekends to meet production expectations — often due to a lack of in-person IT support, tools and training. Extra hours spent troubleshooting technology problems don’t usually figure into typical productivity metrics. It’s one reason up to 40 percent of U.S. workers say they are thinking about quitting their jobs.

Without the ability to physically check in on employees throughout the day, companies must find new ways to evaluate individual productivity. In the process, many are questioning whether some of the metrics they’ve typically used are actually critical to the business.

Here are some alternative ways for evaluating remote worker productivity:

Track Outcomes, Not Hours:

Tracking the amount of time people spend at their workstation provides no real insight into the productivity. You’re better off if employees are focused on producing quality work and meeting clear objectives rather than watching the clock. Shifting your focus from the amount of work produced to the quality of that work will ultimately reduce time spent on troubleshooting, repairs and adjustments, leading to better customer experiences. You’ll also reduce employee burnout by giving them more flexibility about when they get the work done.

Measure Initiative and Innovation:

When employees are encouraged to go beyond their day-to-day responsibilities, they are far more likely to bring unexpected benefits to the company. Innovation may not have defined milestones and outcomes like other job tasks, but it can be measured. For example, timesheet systems can allow employees to note time spent on brainstorming and other creative processes. When compared with new product sales, cost-cutting measures and other performance metrics, you can gain a clearer picture of the value of innovation over time.

Monitor App Usage:

Remote employees and teams rely heavily on collaboration platforms. Heavy use of team chats, video meetings and file-sharing services can be good indicators of employees who are actively engaged with colleagues to keep projects on track. It can also help you identify actively engaged employees who might be candidates for additional training and responsibility.

Gain a Deeper Understanding of Productivity

For centuries, companies have largely measured employee productivity on the basis of time worked and tasks completed. Those can be valid metrics, but they don’t tell the whole story — particularly for today’s remote employees. A new approach can help you gain a deeper understanding of remote work productivity.