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Three key ways to increase and retain productivity levels during a pandemic

​It's now been a few months since we all scrambled to transition our office-based employees to work remotely. During this time, one of our biggest challenges was trying to keep our staff engaged and retain our workers' productivity levels, particularly in a spiralling market.

This challenge is just as important now as what it was back then. For many of us with offices around the country, we're finding each one is at a different stage of returning back to an office environment. In some states, staff have already returned trying to get back to a more normal state, whereas for others, it's still unclear as to when we'll get the go-ahead from the state government to start the process.

On top of this, those who have returned to the office are generally not doing what they did pre-COVID. Often, they are splitting their time between the office and home, and some are staggering their start and finish times.

With such a diverse mix of working situations, combined with the urgency to restart our economy, it's now more important than ever to ensure our employees are focused on the job at hand. But how can you motivate and promote productivity when we're all in such a transient and uncertain situation? A study that surveyed over 20,000 people and more than 50 major companies globally discovered workers were motivated by three key things: play, purpose and potential.

These are trying times for everyone and it's easy for us to fall into the trap of only focusing our attention to revenue generating activities. However, we know that motivated and engaged employees are also the most productive ones, which is ultimately good for business.

Therefore, as business leaders, we can't forget to incorporate play into our workdays. Even though it may be difficult to bring employees together when we're all working in different locations and on different schedules, it is a challenge we need to address to ensure our business' success. Consider things like social competitions, trivia nights, local meetups for those that live near each other, as well as themed Friday night Zoom meetings. For instance, at Paxus, our back-office function hosted pyjama and pet parties.

Giving our employees purpose is also imperative right now. It's easy for our motivation to wane as we're all experiencing additional stressors from the pandemic, such as economic pressures or juggling work with childcare.

At Paxus, one way we're motivating our staff is by giving them short-term, achievable goals through ‘90-day sprints'. As we don't really know what situation we'll all be in at the end of this year, giving employees short-term goals that will make a difference helps them to focus on what they can do now. This gives them a sense of achievement, rather than only working towards long-term goals that could potentially be viewed as completely out of reach right now.

Finally, we have potential. If employees don't feel there is any progression in their roles, unsurprisingly their motivation and engagement declines. With a potential global recession on the horizon, for many businesses the next few months will be about survival rather than growth. Therefore, there may not be as many opportunities for movement within a company.

However, this isn't the only way to give your workers potential. For instance, at Paxus, we've taken advantage of the reduced workload to upskill our employees through a number of training programs, giving them opportunity to grow both professionally and personally.

Another way to promote opportunities for potential is giving employees the scope to solve critical business problems. For instance, the lull caused by the pandemic has given the team time to develop and launch the exciting Talent Solutions service into the market. Not only will giving your staff potential help build their own skills, but it also will help our business come back stronger than ever post-pandemic.

As restrictions start to lift and we slowly return to the office, we can't assume productivity levels will resume back to normal right away. With offices in different stages of transitioning and people splitting their time between the office and home, we are still in a state of learning and flux. Therefore, it's important to continually motivate and engage our workforce in order to grow as a business and come out stronger than ever.

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