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  September 14th, 2022 | Written by

Ensuring the Productivity of Remote Supply Chain Employees: 8 Strategies

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Supply chain workforces are changing. This sector is leaning increasingly towards remote work like many others, letting more people work from home (WFH) and even hiring people across borders. While this shift has many advantages, managing remote productivity may challenge some organizations.

While WFH employees say they’re about 9% more productive at home than in the office, some encounter more issues. Helping workers reach their peak productivity looks different in remote environments than in-person ones. With that in mind, here are eight ways supply chain companies can ensure their remote employees remain productive.

1. Hire People Who Fit Remote Work Well

Ensuring remote productivity begins before people even start in their roles. If businesses want to make the most of a remote workforce, they must first look for candidates who work well in these environments.

Not every person is ideally suited for remote work. More than 60% of American workers who can work from home but choose not to say they do so because they feel more productive in the office. Supply chains must ensure they don’t place these workers in remote positions if they hope to maximize their productivity.

Companies should look for characteristics like self-motivation and strong communication skills in remote position candidates. Questions about applicants’ previous remote work experience, independence and deadline management can also help find ideal work-from-home candidates.

2. Communicate Thoroughly and Often

Communication is another critical consideration for boosting remote productivity. Without regular communication, staff may become distracted, feel isolated or lose track of upcoming major and minor deadlines. By contrast, consistent check-ins and meetings can help remote employees keep work at the top of their minds and remain engaged.

This communication should be both frequent and in-depth. If remote workers don’t understand what managers expect, they’ll struggle to stay engaged. To combat this, higher-ups should be as informative as possible when talking with their remote workforce. Encouraging these workers to ask questions can also help, as two-way communication will provide the most assistance for everyone involved.

3. Use Multiple Communication Channels

As supply chain managers communicate with their remote workers, they must remember to switch between different channels. Modern technology provides many remote communication options, each with unique advantages and downsides.

Video conferencing is the most engaging form of remote communication, but it shouldn’t be the only tool companies use. Nearly half of all professionals report high feelings of burnout from frequent virtual meetings — a phenomenon known as “Zoom fatigue.” Switching between communication channels will help avoid this, ensuring higher productivity.

Zoom and similar tools are ideal for regular check-ups and more in-depth meetings but not daily use. Email can suffice for more mundane, repetitive communication, while instant messaging is perfect for time-sensitive but simple requests.

4. Establish Routines

Flexibility is one of the primary draws of working from home. However, too much freedom in an employee’s working schedule can make it harder to stay engaged. While offering schedule flexibility is necessary, supply chain businesses should also establish some amount of routine to keep remote workers on track.

Putting parameters on remote work hours — such as giving an acceptable range of when workers can start and stop — is an excellent first step. Similarly, leaders can have virtual office hours that remain unchanged so the staff knows when they can contact them. Regular meetings and check-ins can also help establish routines.

5. Help Employees Build Their Home Offices

Another common productivity killer for remote workers is a lack of boundaries between their work and home life. It can be challenging to stay engaged in work when employees don’t feel like they’re in a work environment. The solution is to create a dedicated home workspace and organizations can help.

Remote workers can convert their garage into an office with the right tools. Converting a garage has a broad spectrum of benefits, including: 

  • Fewer distractions
  • Added home value 
  • Easy personalization 

Employers can provide the necessary equipment — like lights, computer monitors or office chairs — to help them create these workspaces. By easing the financial burden of building a home office, businesses make it easier to remain productive at home.

6. Provide Emotional Support

It’s also important not to overlook the impact remote work may have on workers’ mental health. While many remote workers enjoy the flexibility and improved work/life balance, many also find it isolating. That can make it hard to remain engaged, but now more online options exist to meet new people.

Regular check-ups are an ideal time to help provide the emotional support employees may need. Managers should be upbeat and friendly and avoid only talking about work on these calls. Asking workers how they’re doing and if they need anything to be more comfortable can go a long way.

Companies should also consider providing staff access to resources that could help them. That could include articles about managing remote work, self-care tips and tools, discussion groups or similar options.

7. Host Remote Social Events

As part of that support, supply chain organizations should host virtual non-work events, too. Social events are an excellent way to break up the monotony of a job and boost engagement in any working environment — remote work is no outlier. While these activities may look different than in-person ones, they can provide the same relief.

Casual video conferencing meetups are an excellent option. Companies can host virtual happy hours, play online games or do virtual teambuilding activities over the same platforms they use for work calls. It’s also essential to encourage employees to talk to each other and build stronger work relationships during these events to help boost productivity.

8. Measure and Reward Productivity

Supply chain businesses should set up systems to measure remote productivity. Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and implementing tools to measure them can help reveal where the company falls short, providing a path toward improvement.

Thankfully, tracking remote productivity and time management has never been easier. The time-tracking software market is booming and could exceed $1.9 trillion by 2030, so plenty of tools are available to measure these KPIs.

Employers should also reward remote workers who meet and exceed goals based on these KPIs. Rewarding high productivity with cash bonuses or other incentives will help encourage increased engagement.

Follow These Steps to Maximize Remote Productivity

If supply chain organizations know how to manage them correctly, remote workers can be just as — if not more — productive than an in-person workforce. Following these steps will help employers and managers ensure their workers reach their full potential, regardless of where they are.

As working from home becomes more common, these steps will become increasingly important. Learning to maintain high productivity among remote workers now will help supply chains excel in the future.