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Challenges of Work From Home: How Can DAP Boost Employee Productivity?

The rise of internet technology has seen some employers embrace remote working or hybrid solutions over the last decades. More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated this existing trend toward work from home. However, even as the vaccine rollout programs drive down cases and the world economies open back up, things are unlikely to return to normal.

There are a whole host of benefits of work from home for employers and employees. From a management perspective, WFH can increase employee retention, reduce overheads, and open access to a broader talent pool. For employees, it allows a more flexible schedule while reducing the time and cost spent on commuting. 

Of course, it's not all plain sailing. In fact, there are several challenges involved with work from home that businesses have had to face in recent times. In this article, we'll identify some of those difficulties and show how digital adoption platforms (DAPs) can help overcome these hurdles and boost employee productivity.

Challenge #1: Productivity Levels 

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

One of the more surprising outcomes of the shift toward remote working was that it didn't significantly harm productivity. Although this was a significant concern for employers at the start of the pandemic, the fears didn't materialize.

On the whole, a lot of workers seem to love remote working. In fact, Apple employees have been in the news recently for their resistance to returning to the office. Some have even said they will resign if they are forced back. For now, the conflict has been put off until 2022 because of the rise of cases in North America.

However, employees' desire to work from home has led to a slight misunderstanding of how we might measure productivity. Headline-grabbing studies, such as one from Stanford University that measured productivity among 16,000 Chinese telephone workers, found that productivity increased by 13%. However, a large proportion of this bump was to do with fewer breaks and fewer sick days.

But not everyone agrees with the assessment that work from home increases productivity, with one recent study painting a far different picture. Between April 2019 and August 2020, 10,000 staff at a Chinese technology company were tracked by software installed on their computer. This software noted which applications or websites were active and if the employee was using their mouse and keyboard. The findings were startling.

The research suggested that the workers were working very hard. Their total working hours were up by 30% pre-pandemic. These extra hours also included an 18% increase in working outside employees' regular hours. 

However, despite these increases, output was not increased. If anything, it was down, with output per hour reduced by 20%. The big reason that it seems that productivity has increased is that people are working more hours at home. As the line between work and home becomes muddied, staff seem to be sitting at their desk far longer.

For employers and employees, productivity should be attained without working longer hours. 

How Can DAPs Help Increase Productivity Levels

DAPs offer several ways to boost company productivity. Most work from home scenarios involved employees using digital products, for example, cloud-based software. This software is built with efficiency and ease of use in mind. However, many employees only use a small proportion of the features included.

To boost production significantly, employers should consider investing in training. This training can help new and existing staff understand and navigate the tools at their disposal. Organizations can use DAPs to provide software walkthroughs, videos, and tooltips to guide employees around digital properties and teach them how to get the most from these tools.

There are lots of features that employees never use that can speed up and enhance their workflows. 

Challenge #2: Training New Employees

The COVID-19 severely disrupted most aspects of work, especially the way businesses hire and onboard new team members or leaders. Recruitment has been altered significantly, with formerly in-person processes like interviews and assessments shifting online.

Technology has made this adoption manageable in a way that we could barely conceive of a decade or more ago. But while the recruitment process has found a way to adapt, there are further challenges associated with onboarding new employees.

A recent Gallup poll demonstrated the difficulties that employers have onboarding new staff. A paltry 12% of American employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees. This statistic is deeply troubling.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employee turnover numbers can be as high as 50% during their first 18 months on the job. Several factors affect this figure, but two factors SHRM highlights in their paper are "helping employees feel welcome and prepared for their jobs." 

Work from home has made these difficulties more pronounced. And while making employees feel welcome is outside of the scope of this article, making them feel prepared for their job is not. 

A significant part of learning how to perform in a new role is knowing how to use the tools of the job. A considerable amount of industries use either proprietary or open-source software in their workflow. New employees may have some familiarity with these programs from past jobs, but in many scenarios, they do not.

Ultimately, to reduce the turnover of employees, businesses need to find ways to make work from home onboarding more efficient and effective.

How Can DAPs Help Improve New Employee Training

If your organization uses software, your new employees need to learn it. However, COVID-19 has made it more challenging to teach and train employees. In truth, even before the pandemic, there were problems with employee onboarding that DAPs were starting to solve.

1) The "Forgetting" Curve

Herman Ebbinghaus, the 19th-century German psychologist, carried out a large amount of research centered around learning. His findings are still frequently quoted today because they get to the heart of some evident problems that students have with retaining information.

Ebbinghaus realized that 20 minutes after receiving information, people still remember it clearly. However, after 20 minutes, they forget more than 40% of it. After an hour, they've forgotten almost 60%, and by the next week, they've only retained 25%.

There are several things to draw from this that concern employee training. Firstly, training is often inefficient. Secondly, if new employees don't have the skills to do their jobs, it affects workplace productivity and increases turnover levels.

DAPs provide an excellent solution to these problems by allowing users to learn at their own pace. If employers overlay walkthroughs, tooltips, or product tours, staff can learn while using the app or service, which helps them retain more information.

Additionally, digital adoption software allows users to go back over and reinforce the learning. This situation is far better, and users can even prioritize specific tasks or core areas and flesh out the rest of their learning as they become more familiar. This situation is a far superior way to learn than listening to a dreary presentation in a meeting room, or worse still, over Microsoft Teams.

The quicker and more deeply organizations can train their staff, the sooner they can become productive members of the team. This increases productivity and also leads to a better ROI on personnel and software.

2) Declining Employee Engagement

Across all areas of training and education, student engagement is viewed as critical to success. There are vast bodies of research that show that engaging students in education significantly increases their focus and attention and improves their critical-thinking skills. In short, student-centered approaches get far better results.

DAPs are an ideal way to improve employee engagement. This software allows employees to learn as they use the software by providing them with a range of learning aids, from walkthroughs to non-invasive tooltips. 

Another excellent way for employees to become familiar with software is through Onboarding Checklists. These are great for learning about more complex products because they break the information down into manageable chunks that users can "tick off" as they learn. Additionally, completing these checklists ensures they have a more thorough understanding of the product.

3) Information Overload

Work has become increasingly complex and nuanced. And this holds true for the multiple tools we use in our stacks. New recruits can often face an avalanche of information when they start, with different policies, departments, practices, and work cultures to figure out.

As mentioned above, the ideal scenario with new employees is that they find their feet quickly. The alternative leads to inefficiency and high staff turnover. DAP’s personalized guidance is an excellent way to integrate employees into your company's workflow by allowing them to learn the software at their own speed. Additionally, instead of teaching them everything in one day, DAPs can facilitate a better learning experience by guiding them in real-time, providing solutions to issues as they encounter them.

Challenge #3: Replicating Current Workflows Digitally

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Again, this isn't an issue that is specific to post-COVID work from home. It is an issue that many organizations have been grappling with for several years. As more work moves online and a greater amount of workflows go digital, present employees are forced to adjust to a new type of productivity.

Most businesses have a way of working. It might have to do with processes or the way they use technology. However, as technology advances, there is a great emphasis put on digital adoption. This change can be about going paperless or making all processes digital. 

Some organizations have moved faster than others. Younger companies have perhaps fared the best. But one thing that came glaringly clear during COVID was a disconnect between some people (often senior members of staff) and their younger, tech-savvy co-workers.

There can be a resistance to adopt new methods and tools among some staff. We all know someone in an organization that was holding out and doing things their way. However, enforced stay-at-home orders resulted in some employees being forced to embrace digital workflows.

For many workers, remote working forces them out of their comfort zone. And with no colleagues around to field questions, they need to adapt quickly.

How Can DAPs Help Workers Adapt to Digital Workflows?

Digital adoption platforms are built for this very purpose. Many employees have become used to (or entrenched in) old ways of doing things. The world moves quickly, and you'll get left behind if you don't move with it.

Not all staff members are as quick to embrace change as others. New methods and software can be intimidating, and many worry that their roles will be made redundant or obsolete by software. However, it's more likely the case they will be made redundant by failing to adopt.

DAPs are focused on helping organizations get the most from their software or applications. To achieve this, DAPs make tasks more straightforward to learn. Additionally, it assists employers by reducing the levels of support required with adopting new software and even provides analytics to measure how individuals or all staff are engaging or adopting the software.

Having support embedded within an application means that users can acclimatize to a new workflow more quickly because they have an always-on assistant to show them how to use the application. 

By implementing a layer on top of the existing UI, employees can benefit from a range of guidance, product walkthroughs, or step-by-step checklists. By enabling support inside the app, help is easier to find.

Additionally, DAPs also excel at helping employers measure how people are using the application. By tracking in-app use, employers can quickly identify who is struggling with new software and who is failing to use it at its full potential. These metrics can provide an excellent springboard for solving productivity issues by highlighting who needs help.

Challenge #4: Business Continuity

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The COVID-19 pandemic caught most businesses by surprise. There hadn't been a disruption of this scale or type in most people's living memory. As the government imposed stay-at-home orders, many business owners were left wondering how to respond. 

It became clear that many organizations were unprepared to adequately meet the needs of their customers and employees. This scenario underlined the importance of business continuity planning. While the worst of the pandemic might be over, there will be other crises, disasters, or disruptions.

During this time of panic, businesses turned to technology to bridge the gaps in their operations. Tech provided several tools that allowed companies to operate at some level of normalcy. For example, apps like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams facilitated meetings and general workplace communication.

However, there was a severe toll placed on employees, like trying to work and homeschool at the same time. At the same time, customers had to put up with reduced service, backlogs, support, availability, and user experience.

As more businesses moved to hybrid or work from home models, many of these kinks were ironed out. However, many issues remain. Technology provided a way out of this crisis, but if work from home is going to become standard across some organizations, improvements need to be made.

How Can DAPs Help With Business Continuity?

Businesses that employ a work from home model have obligations to both their customers and their employees. DAPs can help with both these scenarios.

1) Employees

COVID-19 abruptly closed colleges, schools, and daycare centers, leaving many parents struggling to balance their domestic and professional commitments. Anyone with young children will look back on that time and wonder how they managed to hold onto their job and their sanity.

However, while the lifting of stay-at-home orders facilitated by a successful vaccine rollout has seen most countries return to something resembling how things were before, other large-scale disruptions could occur. New coronavirus variants, other contagious illnesses, social unrest, or environmental issues are all possible. If so, we could all find ourselves back at square one.

One area where DAPs could help employees is through automation. By overlaying a DAP over employee's workflows, employers can identify which tasks are good candidates for mechanization. This process is already happening across many workplaces in recent years. Tedious, time-consuming tasks hurt productivity and lower morale.

Automated tasks free up employees to be more creative and engaged with their work. DAPs give businesses insights into what processes are a poor use of their employee's time. For example, skilled and well-paid employees’ time is often wasted on low-level tasks like data entry, scheduling, and file management.

DAPs can identify these duties, allowing management to find ways to automate them and boost productivity.

2) Customers

Put frankly, customers keep the lights on. And, because they are paying for a service, they still expect high-quality, even during a time of crisis. Failure to provide support, value, or satisfaction can lead to customer churn, which has a negative effect on revenues. There are several areas where DAPs can solve these problems. 

As the pandemic showed, scenarios that require business continuity plans often coincide with times of staff shortages. DAPs can be used to provide a comprehensive, 24-7 support for SaaS or apps that scale easily. Additionally, a business can add a DAP to a support center too. This addition can provide a good level of assistance for customers while allowing employees to deal with more complicated issues.

Of course, during times of disruption, businesses will need to keep offering value to customers if they want to keep them around. User onboarding becomes incredibly important to drive customer retention. DAPs are again well suited to this task by helping users get value from the product. Additionally, by demonstrating and training users on all the features, they can maximize their customer experience, which means they are more likely to renew.

Finally, DAPs help companies monitor user adoption and happiness. Once again, this is crucial for user retention during times of great upheaval.

Challenge #5: Remote Workforce Management

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Between 2005 and 2017, remote work grew by almost 160%. Advanced tools and cloud-based software mean that it is here to stay. However, not all businesses welcome the trend. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has been a public opponent of WFH, claiming it doesn't suit his firm's "collaborative apprenticeship culture" and that it harms productivity.

Solomon's attitude is instructive of a certain level of mistrust that exists among some organizations’ management. Various polls last year demonstrated the appetite that exists for monitoring workers who are away from the office. About one in five organizations are implementing or have implemented employee monitoring to ensure that productivity stays high.

While much of these actions seem extreme and invasive, they highlight the need for managers to fill the gaps left by not being in the office or knowing what paid employees are doing. Remote workforce management is a relatively novel concept, and employers need time to adjust too.

How Can DAPs Help With Remote Workforce Management?

As we've demonstrated already, DAPs are excellent tools for training, productivity, and onboarding. However, employers can also leverage them to improve the entire work from home experience.

Productivity and efficiency can be improved by training that helps your employees wring the most out of their current tools. Quicker and more accurate workers make better contributions to the bottom line.

A big challenge of remote work management is keeping employees fully engaged. Personalized training via DAPs, complete with tooltips and walkthroughs is a great way to ensure employees are familiar with the tools they need to achieve their tasks.

Another aspect of remote working that employers need to adjust to is managing performance. While monitoring tools have become popular, many businesses would rather have solutions that promote trust and personal responsibility among their workers. However, some level of consented monitoring can help identify employees that are struggling with software. 

Indeed, using a DAP means that employees can figure out the specific areas causing friction and put in place measures to solve them. From here, productivity can be increased.

Cover photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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