Maintaining productivity during a period of uncertainty

By Nick Howes, managing director at Leadership Management International UK, which delivers bespoke personal development programmes to businesses of all sizes.

The government’s instructions on social distancing have been clear: if your job can be completed at home, then employees should work remotely where possible.

Although this practice is already encouraged within many organisations, remote working on such a scale is unprecedented, and there will be many business owners and managers who are apprehensive about the long-term effects it could have on productivity.

However, by learning essential personal leadership skills and establishing a set of clearly defined goals, employees will have the necessary tools needed to become proactive individuals, capable of maintaining the output levels required.

It’s important, especially during a period of uncertainty, to instil confidence in your workforce, equipping them with essential qualities, such as purpose and passion, to ensure the work continues to the standards expected despite the many legitimate challenges of a new working environment.

These qualities fall under the six essential pillars of personal leadership that are crucial to developing the self-motivation and self-discipline needed to overcome challenges and deliver results.

Personal responsibility, plan, positive expectancy, and persistence are the other essential elements that make up the six pillars of personal leadership. It’s through a combination of these qualities that workers will learn to lead themselves effectively in extraordinary times.

Through experience fuelled with positive expectancy, employees can crystallise their thinking and effectively focus their efforts, using this challenge to stay motivated and ensure high quality work is delivered.

Persistence will then become the vital ingredient needed to overcome procrastination and manage the avoidable distractions at home while still giving necessary care and attention to family members who may be sharing the same space.

While it’s important that employees are taught the skills needed to become effective personal leaders, the collective productivity of your workforce relies on their understanding of the common goal: having clear direction, and understanding what success looks like.

Goal setting is a fundamental part of personal development and essential for managing teams remotely, giving individuals clear and realistic targets to aim for, boosting self-motivation and delivering better results in work, and all other areas of life.

In the current time, clear goals are more important than ever to ensure everybody in the team is pulling in the same direction, as each person understands their role and recognises their importance in helping the entire team succeed.

During an uncertain period, one shared goal could be as simple as reminding employees that only through hard work and continued productivity will the business be able to overcome the financial challenges brought about by the outbreak.

In order to harness the power of goal setting, individuals need to be personally invested in achieving their targets, fuelling self-motivation far greater than simply completing tasks that have been assigned to them.

This means taking the time to understand the benefits to be gained by the accomplishment of each goal, including the personal satisfaction of the progress that’s been made and the achievement of large and small victories.

For employees working from home, it’s a powerful practice to set clear and attainable goals, in line with the greater objectives, on a weekly and daily basis.

Remember, there’s a good deal of evidence to suggest a stronger commitment to our goals occurs when we write them down on paper rather than in digital format. Encourage your employees to set personal goals as well as business ones as success in one area breeds motivation in all others.

With strong personal leadership and an understanding of clear direction through goal setting, employees are well-prepared to practice effective time management.

Their ‘must do today’ and ‘do today if possible’ lists can be formed around the tasks and priorities that will generate the most progress towards achieving goals. This is true productivity.

Otherwise known as ‘high-payoff activities’, the most important work can be prioritised, not necessarily the latest request to arrive by email.

Each morning, staff will benefit tremendously from creating a written plan for how they’re going to spend their day, designating sections of the day for focussed project work, checking emails and lunch.

With entire workforces currently working from home, it’s crucial that businesses do everything they can to ensure high standards are maintained during an uncertain period.

Although some employers may be apprehensive about the impact of working from home, there is no reason why standards should slip if they have been given the skills needed to lead themselves effectively.

If your workforce requires training, there are online personal development courses that will give them the tools needed to remain productive over the coming weeks and months.