The Productivity Struggle of Remote Work (and what you can do about it)

Melanie Fellay
November 20, 2023
November 23, 2020

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Watch the Cost of Going Remote on Employee Productivity and Revenue webinar to hear us discuss the results of Spekit’s Cost of Going Remote research report and how leading teams are combatting remote training challenges.

We founded Spekit after experiencing the challenges firsthand on productivity, sharing knowledge and training employees at a fast-growing startup. We wanted to understand how the shift to remote has impacted those efforts, so we teamed up with the Revenue Collective to produce a survey that would give insight into how this transition is impacting the productivity of teams.

Over 190 sales enablement, marketing, and sales leaders at companies ranging from fewer than 10 employees to over 5000 responded. Some of the most critical findings were:

  • Employees are context switching (a lot!) – 52% of respondents use 6+ applications daily to do their jobs.
  • The rate of change continues to increase – changes in processes or products commonly occur every 2 weeks (44% of respondents).
  • Employees feel like they’re on their own (and it’s draining productivity) – now that employees can’t turn to a colleague next to them, 71% said their employees spend about an hour per day looking for answers. 88% of respondents are turning to instant messaging apps (Slack/Teams) to get their questions answered, but often are waiting around for answers.
  • Knowledge retention is down – 41% notice a higher gap in retention of training since going remote.
  • Morale is down – 74% of respondents say low energy and low morale are the biggest barriers to productivity right now, impacting employee ability to learn (and earn in commission-based roles!)

We’ve compiled the most compelling takeaways in the infographic below for your reference but you can download the full report here :

Most of us working at home are probably not surprised to hear any of the above. Even before the pandemic, we were exhausted by the daily onslaught of constant emails, interruptions, switching between tools and keeping up with frequent change. Shifting to remote work has exacerbated what we were already feeling. We’ve put together this guide applying our combined experience in employee enablement to help you combat the challenges we’re all feeling.

Improving morale and engagement in a remote work environment

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that staying inside and blurring the lines between work and home life are taking a toll. Each day feels like the last and we’re all understandably drained. There’s no magic bullet for morale — it’s a dynamic that’s always shifting. Thankfully, there are a few relatively simple practices you can adopt to improve it week over week.

Setting up employees for success

Before we get into solutions, we first need to acknowledge the problem: training isn’t designed in a way that motivates people to learn, and its format often makes it hard to retain the information.

Motivating employees to learn

Despite the best efforts of implementation teams, tools are rarely fully adopted. In fact. less than 40% of CRM customers have end-user adoption rates above 90% .

There are two major factors that influence successful digital adoption : perceived usefulness and ease of use. Perceived usefulness requires that an employee understands the benefits of him/her using the tool so that they overcome their natural resistance to change. Ease of use involves making the tool accessible and helping an employee fit it into their workflows.

Therefore, your most important job is to sell the team on why the new tool or process is important and be thoughtful about how you can make the transition as easy as possible.

  • Understand their current experience – sit and watch them work to understand their current workflows. Think about which specific changes you’re asking them to make and how that will impact their day-to-day
  • Perceived Usefulness: communicate about the change – show them WHAT the change will be before selling them on WHY it will be a good thing for them. Spend time explaining how this will impact them personally.
Ease: Make changes more predictable and therefore manageable
  • Never make changes a surprise, communicate the changes that are coming regularly leading up to the launch. Send reminders. Don’t post on every channel available–you don’t want them tuning you out for being too noisy.
  • Follow a consistent sequence of events for every roll out from announcement of the change, to launch, to follow-up.
  • Follow a consistent format for emails or slacks detailing changes to make them easily searchable. We highly recommend creating a FAQ Slack channel on the new process or tool so that folks can go find answers to their questions.
  • Follow up after the rollout. Hold virtual vent hours – set aside time each week to have them come and share. Where are they getting stuck or frustrated? Is there something you know how to automate or reconfigure that will make their lives easier?
Ease: be thoughtful about the timing
  • Don’t roll out at the end of the quarter or before a big deadline.
  • We recommend rolling out in the middle of the week to avoid the hectic Monday and checked out Friday dropoffs.

Designing training for optimal retention

Now that we’ve discussed how to increase employee openness to make the change, we should look at how to make the training as effective as possible. There are two big reasons that employees aren’t retaining the training they receive:

  • High volume and unhelpful format – Employees are already overwhelmed, so a large volume of information won’t stick. 47% of our respondents admitted that too much information at once is already lowering their team’s ability to apply training. This issue is compounded by Zoom fatigue and increased screen time in the virtual workplace.
  • Lack of Reinforcement – 47% of respondents believed that a lack of reinforcement after training was contributing to the decline in teams’ ability to apply the training, but 70% believe it’s the most important characteristic of effective training. Significant time and effort is put into the initial launch, but employees don’t have enough documentation and support to reinforce that training, so they struggle to commit it to memory. They can’t turn to the person next to them to ask a quick refresher question anymore. Even instant messages require some waiting for the information they need.

What you can do about it:

  • Make information bite-sized – cognitive psychologists believe that the average person can only hold seven ideas in their mind at once. Don’t try to deliver more than seven bites of information. Make each bite easily digestible by keeping it short and crisp. Especially on Zoom!
  • Tell stories to make it memorable – the earliest memory trick in human history is to format information as a story. Use names of real people and tell a story about them running into challenges with the new process or tool, have other people in the meeting helping to problem solve.
  • Make documentation accessible – 50% of respondents believe that making knowledge easily accessible in an employee’s workflow. THIS IS A BIG ONE. It’s always been hard, but the virtual setting makes it even harder. Since it’s something we think about 24/7, at Spekit, we’ve put together some best practices.

The companies with the best results have reinvented employee enablement for this new remote environment. With a better understanding of how and where their employees need guidance as they work, employers have started looking to digital enablement solutions like Spekit ’s in-app learning platform that surfaces answers contextually, right at the moment of need, wherever their team is working.

As COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges for the airline industry, Southwest Airlines was also shifting to 100% remote and virtual training for their sales team. They turned to Spekit to make sure that employees who were on their own for the first time felt supported, and had what they needed without having to navigate a complicated system or dig through layers of outdated documentation. They consolidated training materials from five different systems into Spekit’s Salesforce integration , so employees can now find everything they need, in bite-sized servings, directly in Salesforce. Southwest’s management team now spends 50% less time communicating new initiatives and process changes and 60% less time developing and creating new training material.

“I have honestly never seen a tool as quickly accepted and loved as Spekit was by our sales Team — it was awesome. The only feedback they gave us was “More” and “Why didn’t we have this when I started?” – Libby Magliolo Manager of Organizational Health, Southwest Airlines

Key takeaways for improving productivity while working remote:

  • Improve morale and engagement by meeting and emailing regularly but sparingly and using a uniform structure to avoid noisiness
  • Motivate employees to learn by digging into their current practices, understanding the pain points they feel, and communicating how changes will better enable them to do their jobs successfully
  • Design training and documentation for optimal retention by keeping it bite-sized, in-context and reinforced. Digital enablement tools, like Spekit, are the easiest way to train, improve performance and roll out changes directly in the apps employees are using throughout their day
Chat with us to learn how teams across industries are enabling and empowering their remote teams with Spekit!

About the author

Melanie Fellay
CEO & Co-founder
Mel is a Forbes 30 under 30 recipient, a Top 100 Female Entrepreneur to Watch, and has been featured across Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and more.
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