5 Straightforward Steps to Measuring the Productivity of Remote Employees

Measuring productivity fundamentally never had anything to do with face-time. So why then with an increase in remote and hybrid teams, is the focus (and anxiety) of making sure our teams are “working”, suddenly at the top of every leader’s agenda? Sure, perhaps we FEEL better when we can see our staff staying late or rushing between meetings, but these have never been true indicators of output. By reframing your approach and implementing these 5 steps to measuring the productivity of remote (and in-office) employees, you can not only help increase the performance of your team, but also your effectiveness as a leader.

Define how you will measure success

Productivity = output/time. It’s that simple. What task is being completed and how long does it take. Of course not every task is easy to define (we’ll get to that) but by reframing your understanding of productivity to be centered on output, and the time it takes to get there, you are able to release some of the anxieties that come with managing a remote team. Notably the temptation to micromanage time to “be sure they are really working.” Sound familiar?

For more complex tasks, or those not as easily quantified as “complete” consider a points system that attributes points to certain milestones or activities. We’ll talk more about milestones, but the idea is to quantify productivity related to output rather than focusing on subjective measurements, like how busy someone seems or how late they appear to be working. Admit it, doesn’t this sound like it would be a relief?

Define the KPIs 

Now that you understand the basics of how to measure productivity, the next step is to make it specific and applicable to each member of your team. Output will vary based on job function so it’s important to define key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant for each employee. For instance, a KPI for a sales person is likely to be revenue generated or meetings completed whereas for an operations employee, their KPI may be dollars saved or processes implemented. However you define the unique criteria, again, make sure they are measurable rather than subjective metrics that relate to output.

Create a policy

As with all great leadership endeavors, if you want your approach to have impact, it needs to be clearly defined, communicated and embraced across your organization. Consider including both senior leadership and front line employees in the process. It’s a great way to not only get insight into the expectations and concerns of both groups, but also buy-in for the policy as a whole. Clearly map out the process, metrics, and milestones for how productivity will be measured and allow for ample communication and one-on-one coaching to ensure everyone in on board!

Focus on milestones not micromanaging

“He hasn’t responded to my email yet, I wonder if he is working?” “Our remote staff is even more productive than before, look how late they are working!” Be honest, have these thoughts crossed your mind this past year while managing a remote or hybrid team? It’ not to say that these can’t be indicators of good or bad productivity, but they are subjective, and teeter on the temptation for micromanaging time rather than output. We get it though, relinquishing control in one sweeping step can be disconcerting.

Try instead implementing milestones with your team to monitor progress. These are set out in advance and have clear, measurable markers that will highlight whether or not your team is on track. Milestones enable leaders to stay connected and in control of output, staff to feel greater autonomy and accountability for their progress toward a goal, and everyone to focus on true productivity rather than just time worked.

Communicate communicate communicate!   

At all stages of the process, communication is key. Does your team understand how their productivity is being measured? Do they know what to expect at each milestone meeting? Are senior leadership’s expectations aligned to the policy and output metrics you’ve put in place? If your answer to any one of these questions is no, you need to take a step back and get everyone on the same page. Communication is not a one-time roll-out meeting, but rather an ongoing dialogue. Leave space for dissent, questions, and concerns as well as these will only help make the overall policy better and relevant to your company.

It can feel daunting with less face to manage the productivity of your remote employees, but the basics of tracking output are essentially the same as they have always been: productivity = output/time. By implementing these 5 steps and shifting your focus to results rather than time worked, or perceived productivity, you can help foster a happy, effective hybrid team.