6 Strategies to Boost Productivity Across Your Virtual Workforce
Without turning my head, I can count at least a dozen objects on or around my work desk that would provide me with a major distraction. And that isn’t even counting the endless stream of online content at my fingertips.
These distractions aren’t necessarily an issue for on-site and brick-and-mortar employees, but we currently live in the age of telecommuting or hybrid working. And after two years, many enterprises are committed to continuing the work-from-home model for the foreseeable future.
Businesses currently have access to a number of remote communication and time tracking software platforms to ensure that their employees are staying productive during work hours. However, without the oversight and influence that a physical office provides, workers are often on their own when it comes to remaining focused and engaged on their tasks in an environment rife with distraction.
Below are six strategies designed to help businesses boost productivity and support the needs of their workforce from a distance.
- Identify the right worker profile
Employing a virtual workforce comes with its own unique set of challenges. Businesses need a plan to handle remote security concerns, attract and onboard new hires, and instill a solid workplace culture when a physical location is unavailable.
This is why being able to find and identify the right people for your enterprise is more important than ever. Regardless of your work environment, center the search for the right profile on the current concerns you have as a business.
It may be in your best interest to seek out workers with a proven record of excelling in a virtual environment. The most successful remote workers tend to be more experienced, organized, professional, and entrepreneurial. These are the qualities your business should be focused on when building your virtual workforce. Don’t simply settle for convenience and availability.
When identifying your ideal worker profile, remember that remote work is never a 1:1 replacement for an in-office environment. The individual that succeeds in a remote environment may be different than the profile that succeeds in-office, and therefore will likely have a different skillset.
The skills enterprises should consider when identifying a remote worker profile include:
- Excellent communication: clear and consistent communication, both with customers and co-workers is crucial in a virtual environment. Remote workers should be reliable and easy to reach, even if they are on the other side of the country.
- Self-discipline: remote workers establish and adhere to routines. They have proven they are able to work within a schedule (whether they set their own schedule, or the organization does), and are able to manage their time accordingly.
- Teamwork: even if a remote worker is operating alone, they should recognize the purpose of their company as a whole. Remote workers should be willing to collaborate when needed, commit themselves to the culture of the company, and recognize the responsibility of working with sensitive data and information.
- Adaptability: if there is one thing we’ve all learned throughout the past two years, it’s to expect the unexpected, and that change is inevitable. The ideal remote worker should be flexible enough to handle new challenges as they arise.
- Guide agents through change
On the topic of adaptability, it’s important to ensure that your entire team is well prepared to handle any outside factor that may lead to a change in operations. Not an easy thing to do if most of your workforce is remote.
Plan ahead for how you and your business will communicate with your workforce during challenging times. Many businesses were unprepared for the long-term effects of the global pandemic in 2020, and two years later they are still grappling with change. Reflect on the lessons your team learned from that period of time and focus on what can be improved in the future.
Now is the time to set an example and foster a culture built on empathy and transparency across your entire team. Remote working often requires different competencies for different agents. How can you ensure that their needs will be met going forward?
Ideally, your workforce will excel in flexibility. But remember to be cognizant of their limits and growth areas.
- Embrace technology (but don’t use it as a crutch)
A remote workforce can’t operate without the right technology, but with so many options available, businesses may struggle to determine which software platforms they should be using. Take time to do your research and listen to worker feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. Boosting worker engagement may require several individual tools, so it’s important that they complement each other.
To help nurture emotional intelligence and prevent burnout, commit to building a virtual community of communication tools that allow team members to connect in a remote environment. IRC communication platforms such as Slack and Microsoft teams mimic real-time engagement so that co-workers have the opportunity to build and nurture relationships while at work or during their off-hours.
- Measure engagement & productivity
How to measure engagement and productivity varies from business to business. However, the companies that best know how to utilize a remote workforce understand the importance of real-time feedback. Engaging with your workforce on a regular basis allows you to receive a pulse check on their productivity and overall sentiment. Quarterly surveys are a standard tool used to measure these feelings, but they also run the risk of lagging behind pressing concerns.
Remember not to equate employee happiness with employee engagement. Virtual agents can still be productive and active in their community even when feeling as though they don’t have the right support tools. Workers may feel as though it is not their place to share their concerns or frustrations with your business’ tools—especially if either the worker or platform are new—so be sure to encourage regular feedback.
- Invest in distance learning and professional development
Effective distance learning tools are needed to help maintain competencies and upskill in a virtual environment. When employees don’t feel as though they are growing in their position or within their company, they tend to look for other opportunities elsewhere (does the Great Resignation ring a bell?). Consistent professional growth across the entire workforce is what guides any enterprise to reach its next milestone.
Learning platforms that provide short digestible sessions help agent development without the need to sacrifice an entire day of work. These sessions can be utilized to support emotional intelligence among your workforce as well. Consider including courses designed not only for strengthening individual skills, but also courses targeted toward improving communication strategies.
The Liveops distance learning solution blends self-paced and instructor-led sessions designed to foster adult learning. Our model provides agents with flexibility and continual access to sessions both old and new.
- Encourage agent well-being through a cultivated virtual community
Creating a workable virtual community is a challenge many enterprises have faced since the shift to remote work. And not every business has the infrastructure, or even the desire to replace the organic culture and community found within physical offices.
In a virtual landscape, businesses need to invest in the right tools and technology and be intentional about building a supportive community across the entire workforce.
A successful virtual community involves more than top-level collaboration software. Hosted events merge fun and networking, and encourage buddy systems to grow within the organization. Employee-led groups foster relationships and build bonds between remote agents.
At Liveops, we leverage a social network platform that allows virtual agents to participate in events and networking opportunities. Through Liveops Nation, our agents provide support, mentorship, and entrepreneurship strategies, all in the service of collective growth and camaraderie.
A single productivity strategy likely won’t work an entire pool of virtual agents. Instead, a combination of proven communication tools, leveraged by user-optimized technology platforms can help foster engagement and purpose.
One of the biggest contributing factor toward productivity is usually motivation. When your virtual agents are aligned with the mission statement of your business and are invested in its continued success, those feelings will be reflected in their work, and your network of agents will be more productive and efficient, delivering better experiences to your customers.