The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting not only the way many businesses operate, but also how they assess productivity. How can you tell whether you’re getting enough done when so much has changed? There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all answer, but business owners should ask the question in order to adjust expectations and objectives accordingly.
Impact of remote work
Heading into the crisis, concerns about productivity were certainly on the minds of many in leadership positions. In March, research firm Gartner conducted a snap poll that found 76% of HR leaders reported their organizations’ managers were concerned about “productivity or engagement of their teams when remote.”
Many of these fears may well have been alleviated after a month or two. News provider USA Today collaborated with researchers YouGov and social media platform LinkedIn to conduct a poll in April that found 54% of respondents (professionals ages 18-74) said that working remotely has positively affected their productivity. They cited factors such as time saved by not having to commute and fewer distractions from co-workers.
The bottom line is that allowing — or, in recent months, requiring — employees to work remotely shouldn’t drastically alter your expectations of their productivity. Every employee must continue to fulfill his or her job duties and meet annual performance management objectives (as perhaps adjusted in light of the pandemic and altered economy).
However, it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to accomplish markedly more just because he or she is no longer subject to a long commute and regular office hours. In fact, when assessing productivity, business owners should bear in mind the dual challenge of work-life balance while working remotely (childcare obligations, etc.) and the mental health component of living through a pandemic.
Key performance indicators
If remote work isn’t a major concern for your company — either because your employees were already doing it, adapted to it readily, or simply cannot work from home — there remain some tried-and-true ways to evaluate productivity. By measuring some key performance indicators (KPIs), you can evaluate the efficacy of your team.
One example of a useful productivity metric is revenue per employee. To calculate it, you’ll need to check your financial statements to see how much revenue your business brought in during a defined period. Then, you divide that dollar figure by your total number of employees.
It’s not a “be all, end all” metric by any means, but revenue per employee can help accurately shape your understanding of productivity and cash flow. And, as mentioned, you’ll need to think about how this year’s economic conditions have altered your productivity needs and what employees can reasonably accomplish. You can also look at your employees’ billable hour ratios, overtime hours, jobs completed, and other metrics that reflect the success of your business.
But it’s not all about the numbers. Measuring KPIs is an important way to keep your staff motivated, by recognizing their accomplishments and providing actionable feedback for improvement. KPIs should be used to establish goals, monitor progress, and refine your operations to continuously improve performance across your organization.
Recalibrate for the ‘new normal’
When the subject of productivity arises, many business owners’ instinctive answer is “more, more, more!” However, it is important to adjust your expectations and goals in light of the ‘new normal’ conditions that we’re all currently operating under. By recalibrating your expectations, you’ll gain more sustainable results over time.
If you have questions about measuring productivity at your company, leave a comment below, or feel free to contact us directly, we are happy to help!