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While many businesses are bracing to reopen their workspaces, it’s unlikely they’ll ever be able to fully return to pre-pandemic ways of working. While not everyone has embraced home working in lockdown, it has forced people to experience a work life without commutes, nine-to-fives and colleague interruptions. Having seen it can work on a mass scale, many will be looking to continue some work from home policy — especially given 59% of workers want to continue working remotely post-lockdown.
But once remote working is no longer a necessity, businesses will likely still want some proof to ensure it delivers on its productive promises. But what figures can employees show their employers to make the case for longer-term remote working arrangements?
In this article, we lay out a few different ways to measure your work from home productivity – providing your boss with cold, hard stats, as well as the insights to help you improve your remote set-up.
Quantifying work from home productivity
At this point, the fact that working from home – at least some of the time – is a good idea should be non-negotiable. But the reality is that remote work can be a hard concept for some employers to accept. Whether it’s worrying (almost always incorrectly) that employees who work from home will slack off, or simply wanting to “see” their employees in real life, some people just aren’t down with the idea of remote work. But if your employer is worried that important tasks won’t get done in time, or your days won’t be as productive, there are ways to assuage these concerns.
1. Find your productive baselines
If you want to prove that you’re achieving more with your time at home, you need to actually track it. What gets measured gets managed, and tracking your working day is a great way to understand yourself what a good, productive day actually looks like. Most of us have days where we feel rushed off our feet but also feel we achieved very little of value – and likewise, sometimes the days that are slow and quiet feel the most productive of all. To achieve peak productivity, we need to understand what we’re doing differently on those days.
Being able to see how long you spend on tasks and projects, where non-project time goes, and how you get distracted can help you grasp your productive baseline. Automatic tracking apps like Timely can gather all this data for you as you work, creating timelines and dashboards of everything you work on. After a couple of weeks you’ll have plenty of data to review and compare to work out what “productive” and “unproductive” days look like.
2. Measure the quality of your focus
While working out the average time it takes to complete a particular task or following the number of tasks you complete in a day is useful, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of your performance. Truly productive “deep work” requires uninterrupted focus – it gives us the mental space to solve the complex problems that actually advance us towards our goals. It’s the antithesis of multitasking and cracking out small tasks, which constantly fracture our focus and build unproductive attention residue.
So, you need to combine your productivity baseline metrics with information on the quality of your focus. There are a few good ways to go about this:
Measure how much deep work you do. A day peppered with phone calls, email and Slack activity – where you frequently switch between unrelated tasks – will be a highly unfocused day. Intelligent tools like Dewo can provide you with a daily score for quality productive “deep work” and non-productive context switching.
Gauge your productive peaks and troughs. While you may have a general idea of when you’re most wired (doesn’t everyone have a post-lunch dip?), you can always check your automatic time data in Timely to confirm it – look for periods of your day where you work in short bursts, or where certain tasks exceed the average time you usually spend on them.
Surface your distractions. Again, you’re going to need an objective automatic tracker for this one since many of us underestimate the time we spend on non-work activity. From your timeline you’ll be able to see all the time you spend on website and apps that aren’t related to your work. You can group all this time together to get a breakdown of daily cyberloafing and procrastination.
3. Action your data
Once you’re armed with key metrics about your productivity, you can show your manager what remote working looks like for you. It’s extremely powerful for making the case for long-term home working arrangements, since it’s hard to argue with cold, hard stats. While you don’t have to share everything or give anyone access to your tools, make sure you have a productivity report template ready to go for one-to-one meetings.
Of course, this data isn’t just for your boss – knowing how remote working is impacting your work day is essential for staying in control and on top. When faced with their productivity data for the first time, for example, many home workers are stunned by the amount of time they spend on unstructured internal communication. Data has tremendous power to make us conscious of disruptions, broken processes and unproductive behaviors, so make sure you use your productivity data for yourself even once you have won your WFH case.
You can also use the insights from your productivity data to create a more effective schedule that actually suits you. Rather than simply working 9–5 because it’s what we’ve always done, you can look at when you’re most productive and organize tasks according to your natural peaks. If you tend to flag at 11am, you’ll know to plan a break and structure a lower-intensity task for that period. Likewise, if you get a second wind towards the end of the day, you’ll know to plan deep work sessions for that time.