Currently, 92% of U.S. employees are working remotely at least one day per week. Whether you like it or not, it’s time to assess how you manage productivity and set employee expectations for remote work.

That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to identifying ways to help your team be productive while working remotely. Whether they’re fully remote, hybrid, or occasionally out of the office, this guide will help you discover ethical ways to help your remote team reach its full potential.

But first, let’s take a look at what employee productivity entails.

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What is employee productivity? 

Employee productivity is an assessment of the efficiency of an employee or team. You can calculate productivity with the simple equation of output divided by input. That said, it’s much easier to explain than quantify.

Labor productivity formula: Output (total revenue in a specific period) / Input (total hours worked during that period)

A lot of that stems from a turbulent history with the concept. In the U.S. especially, we often equate productivity to raw hours worked. You’ll hear people brag about working 50, sometimes as high as 60 hours per week. But is that actually productive?

Not really. Mathematically speaking, working long hours can be a sign of the absence of productivity. If input increases at a higher rate than output, your team becomes increasingly inefficient. Not to mention long hours are detrimental to one’s health.

Instead of wondering how you’ll know if employees are working, ask yourself how you can set realistic expectations for employees. Here are some tips to help you empower your remote employees to be productive without burning them out.

How to set employee expectations for remote work

Setting expectations for remote work isn’t easy. From the moment you offer remote work in any capacity, you are reshaping the very way your employees think about work. That’s why it’s important to have conversations with your team about how things will look going forward.

It’s best to start with the basics.

1. Establish work hours

While remote work and flexible hours aren’t synonymous, there is a lot of overlap. When you transition to remote work, you may also question other societal norms surrounding work. This may lead you to:

  • Hire employees from around the globe
  • Experiment with asynchronous hours
  • Adjust deadlines and due dates

Maybe you’ll end up sticking with your normal work hours. However, you may also adopt an asynchronous work approach. No matter what you choose, you must clearly articulate these hours in your policy.

A good policy addresses the following questions:

  • Can your team choose their own hours? If so, will they need to work consecutively, or can they break up their workday? Does their schedule need to be the same each day?
  • What events overrule flexible hours? Maybe you’ll allow flexible hours, but you’ll probably have some mandatory meetings, town halls, virtual retreats, or hard deadlines.
  • How will employees articulate their availability? If teams can use flexible hours, how will their teammates know when and where to reach them? How soon must they respond to Slack, emails, and other messaging?

For that last point, it’s worth defining communication guidelines.

2. Outline communication guidelines

No matter what hours your team is working, life happens. One of the advantages of working from home is that you can attend to other responsibilities that arise throughout the workday. 

That said, you still need to communicate your availability to your team and make up for that time.

To no one’s surprise, the best way to get on the same page about hours is to communicate. At Hubstaff, we created a communication manifesto that outlines our expectations.

This manifesto gets you thinking about some very simple but important questions like: 

What are your preferred communication channels, and what do you use them for?

For us, general communications happen over Slack. If they devolve into larger project plans, we move them to our project management tool, Hubstaff Tasks. We don’t use email much, but we usually handle HR requests there.

How do you show when you’re on PTO, in a meeting, or need some focus time?

At Hubstaff, we use a shared calendar to keep track of PTO. If we’re in meetings or need some focus time, we set our Slack status accordingly. If you’re not already using this feature, here are some tips on customizing your Slack availability.

Customizing status and availability on Slack


How long is an employee allowed to go without responding to a message?

Our handbook states that employees shouldn’t go more than 24 hours without responding to Slack messages or emails. Admittedly, it’s a little more challenging to enforce comments in Figma, Google Docs, and other collaboration tools we use. We’ve found that defaulting to action can keep projects moving across time zones.

Your communication guidelines are also a great place to lay out deadline expectations. Remote work may change your hours, communication tools, and culture, but it should never detract from your output.

If you manage a global team, you may find value in having teams in multiple time zones. This way, you’ll have 24/7 coverage for customer support, security, and more.

3. Agree on tools

As you might expect, remote work may force you to rely on tools that you didn’t use much before. Fortunately, technology can help you feel more at home (pun intended) in your virtual workspace.


Slack is great for quick huddles and async collaboration, but it’s also helpful for culture building. Set up channels for different teams and projects, but don’t forget to add some team-building opportunities too. To compensate for the lack of in-office camaraderie, we have a few fun channels like #what-to-watch, #what-to-listen-to, #pub-trivia, and #random.


As an asynchronous team, we believe in documenting everything. While we value the autonomy to work whenever we want, a total lack of structure can hinder productivity. That’s why we use Notion for process documentation, guides, handbooks, and human resources info.

No matter when you work, you should have all the answers and resources you need to be successful — even if you’re the only one online.


Maybe we’re biased, but we consider ourselves the best workforce management software on the market. Our versatile suite of features is great for teams of any size or industry. When you transition to remote work, you can count on Hubstaff to help you:

Hubstaff’s time and project tracking dashboard

Of course, even the best technology can’t replace strong leadership skills. You can learn a lot from performance badges, activity levels, and hours worked, but leadership still needs to look beyond these metrics and communicate with their team.

Strengthen your leadership skills with Hubstaff

Understand how your team works with powerful productivity tools and metrics.

Try Hubstaff now

4. Define security policies

One of the biggest obstacles to remote work is cybersecurity compliance. Work with your SecOps team to ensure everything from password managers to data security policies is up to date.

If you’re not sure what to look out for, it’s worth researching potential security threats for remote teams. Here are a few of the many security pitfalls you may encounter:

  • Weak passwords
  • Unencrypted file sharing
  • Poor cloud storage security
  • Subpar security best practices on mobile devices

If you’re leading a larger team, look for tools with enterprise-grade security features.

Create a policy

Once you’ve had these discussions with your team, create a work-from-home policy that affirms the team’s decisions. Have everyone sign it before they’re allowed to work remotely. This way, you’ll set the tone for a positive experience with an ethical, collaborative approach to remote work.

If you don’t know where to start, we’ve been at this for a while. Check out our work-from-home policy template and customize it to your liking.

While you’ll ultimately be the one signing off on your work-from-home policy, it should be a collaborative effort. Leaders that listen to their employees are more likely to get buy-in on new processes.

It also helps to take a look at your expectations.

Adjust your expectations

Before adjusting remote work expectations for our teams, we have to adjust our expectations of remote work. Start by accepting remote work for what it is: one of the biggest evolutionary steps in productivity since Henry Ford’s assembly line helped usher in the 40-hour workweek.

If you plan to open your team up to remote work, accept that they might not spend 8 hours straight at their desk daily — and that’s okay! Technology is constantly evolving, so shouldn’t the way we work evolve too?

Tools like Hubstaff enable your team to run errands, travel, spend time with their families, or pick up a new hobby. If you embrace remote work and allow your team to break up their workday as they wish, you’ll create a strong balance of trust and transparency across your organization. You’ll also see happier, more productive teams as a result.

Category: Remote