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Beyond remote work: insights and strategies for enhancing employee productivity and performance


Remote work and the implications of continuing the process, including its potential impact on employee performance, are widely discussed. However, there is no right answer, and it is not one-size-fits-all. 

The future of work includes flexibility, employee experience, agility, and the responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI)—these significant shifts impact where and how employees work. With an increase in remote work options, we have seen positive trends in work-life balance, employee empowerment, inclusivity, and an increase in diverse talent. These factors are also known to increase employee productivity and retention. According to BCG, a considerable population of employees are ready to leave their jobs if they find their flexible work arrangements unsatisfactory. Based on their survey, approximately 90% of women, caregivers, individuals identifying as LGBTQ+, and those with disabilities, deem flexible work options as crucial in determining whether they will continue or resign from their current employment.

Remote work productivity is subject to debate due to various factors that must be considered. Some suggest remote work can increase productivity due to a flexible schedule, no commute, and fewer interruptions. While many employees thrive in a remote work environment, some find it challenging due to the discipline it demands.

Remote work was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic. A July 2023 report from Stanford University found that working remotely has doubled every 15 years. Then, when the pandemic occurred, although devastating, it provided a new perspective for those previously constrained, forced to relocate, or live in less favorable locations to work for a specific company and advance their career. Worldwide ERC states that around 56 million Americans moved to new residences between December 2021 to February 2023 due to COVID-19-related shutdowns and the surge in remote work and online education. With such a huge increase in their number over the past few years, this begs the question: do employees working remotely demonstrate productivity?

Taking a deeper look into the study by Standord University, researchers shared that remote work employees’ productivity differs depending on perceptions—the nature of the research and the conditions under which it was conducted. The report revealed that workers believed productivity was higher at home (approximately 7% higher), while managers perceived it lower (around 3.5% lower). Another example, according to a poll by the video presentation applications mmhmm, 43% prefer office work and 42% favor working from home for peak productivity. Moreover, 51% of employees stated that working asynchronously or having the flexibility to set their schedules contributed positively to their productivity. Perceptions aside, the Stanford analysis found a 10% to 20% reduction in productivity across various studies.

The bottom line is today’s company culture is crucial. Ensuring work-life balance and putting the employees in the driver’s seat are the best ways to retain and increase productivity because they will feel valued and empowered. In a 2022 Microsoft employee engagement survey, 92% of employees say they believe the company values flexibility and allows them to work in a way that works best for them. An even higher percentage (93%) are confident in their ability to work together as a team, regardless of location. People have different preferences—some individuals opt for a hybrid approach, while others choose either remote or in-person work exclusively. 

Regardless of the work setup, company leaders and human resources (HR) or human capital management (HRM) executives should ensure that they can still make a lasting impact on employee performance. One measure involves establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) that assess innovation, program, project, and product success—the output, not the physical location. Another crucial step is developing a strategy that includes all future work options, such as in-person, hybrid, and remote choices. Employees tend to be more productive if there is a level of empowerment that allows them to decide where to do their best work.

Planning in person events makes a difference. Leaders who bring new hires and internal transfers, new to the team, on-site for several days should see an uptick in productivity post-gathering. In-person team or company-wide gatherings 1-4 times per year provide employees an opportunity to reset and socialize. Moreover, managers should bring teams together for major program and project kick-offs. When onsite in person, people being present makes a difference. Discourage using Teams or Zoom when employees are in the general vicinity. I have seen companies spew the importance of in-person just to fly employees into a specific location and have people take meetings from their desks or in a different on-site building-conference room, defeating the purpose of in-person interaction.

Having organizations foster all work options is critical and foregoes having to decide which is best. There is no right or wrong answer to this challenge; it should be considered a new way of working and requires future-forward ways of thinking, just as we do with emerging technologies. 

About the guest author:

Dr. Malika Viltz-Emerson is a Senior Global Human Resource Leader at Microsoft. She has over 20 years of experience in human capital management. Her mission is to identify and address the real-world challenges and opportunities for employees and the company, and design and implement optimal solutions that leverage the latest tools, technologies, and processes.

The vital role of government in nurturing stakeholders’ future

Riham Mahmoud Saad is a Senior Strategy and Corporate Performance Specialist with over 15 years of experience in corporate performance management in the public sector. She holds a master’s degree in Information Systems Management from Zayed University. Moreover, she has acquired certification in KPI Professional and Practitioner and a Nanodegree in Data Analysis and Visualization from Udacity.

Crafting success: strategy and performance management for governments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Khalid Alharbi boasts over 20 years of experience in partnering with business unit executives to develop strategic plans, direction, market analysis, partnership, growth guide, and operation excellency. He leads large and complex projects to achieve key business objectives and promote digital transformation. He is pursuing a career in engineering, project management, sales and strategy planning.

Key strategies for building a data-driven culture

Dr. Imad Syed, a seasoned technologist, mentor, leader, evangelist, and philanthropist, worked his way up to become the CEO of PiLog. His brainchild, PiLog’s Business Technology Platform, focuses on augmented data management to leverage the latest advancements in tech—such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA), data lakes, data hubs, and big data—for prescriptive analytics.

Standardization for aligning operational processes in a healthcare setting


Image source: seb_ra | Getty Images via Canva

The case below explores the implementation of a standardized Operational Deployment System (ODS) at Corewell Health West, a healthcare system in West Michigan. The goal of the system was to align operational processes and improve efficiency across physician and non-physician stakeholders. By implementing ODS, the organization aimed to enhance quality, increase patient satisfaction, optimize operational efficiency, and reduce costs while ensuring staff and physician satisfaction.

The authors are Aiesha Ahmed MD, MBA (VP, Population Health, and Chief of Neuroscience); Rashelle Ludolph (Operations Director, Medical Specialty Services); Cheryl Wolfe MD, MBA (VP, Chief of Women’s Health), and Sonja Beute (Director of Strategic & Operational Deployment).


Corewell Health West is a complex large healthcare system in West Michigan with 31,000 employees (4600 providers). Due to its large footprint in West Michigan, it aims for transformation to improve quality, increase patient satisfaction, deliver operational efficiency, and reduce costs. Foundational to all this work is staff and physician satisfaction. There was a need for shared language to communicate critical goals in a way that allowed us to be efficient while creating a standard approach to work. To move such a large team in one coordinated direction, Corewell Health needed to engage in focused efforts in a way that was respectful to its teams and leaders.

The Operational Deployment System (ODS) was designed to help leaders clarify what is most important and align the right resources to meet the goals set.  This system, composed of best practices from individual project management and process improvement methodologies, was implemented to provide clarity, cascade goals appropriately, and help prevent employee burnout by creating a system of intentional alignment.

ODS implementation process

ODS begins with an annual goal-setting process led by the executive team and subject matter experts in the areas of cost, quality, people, and value. There is then a multi-week process of cascading these goals from the executive team through various levels of physician and operational leadership to front-line staff. Subsequent conversations called “catch-ball” follow in which each level of leadership discusses and eventually finalizes goals in each of the four categories. This process culminates with executive sign-off, confirming the roll-up of goals at each level to ultimately achieve the system goals.  These goals are captured in a document called an Operational A3 (see sample). Each level of leadership, starting at the director level, has an OA3 that outlines the annual goal in each category and provides space for monthly data updates and explanations.

The manager level of leadership does not have an OA3 but instead utilizes a reporting tool called a gate chart (see sample). Each goal has a separate gate chart featuring a leading metric (the metric that aligns with the director OA3), a lagging metric, and specific tactics and timelines for impacting performance.

Reporting and communication

Following this goal-setting process and after populating the OA3 and gate charts, weekly report-outs begin each week focused on one of the four priority areas. Report-outs take place in a virtual meeting with managers reviewing the gate chart performance with front-line staff. This is followed by managers reporting their gate chart update to directors, who then provide a similar report to Physician and Operations Vice Presidents (VPs), and so on. Each of these report-outs follows the TAPE methodology, which stands for Target (what was the goal), Actual (what is the actual performance metric), and Please Explain (what were the actions or factors that contributed to that month’s performance).

Change management

The ODS process inherently supports change management surrounding efforts to meet annual goals by engaging the front-line staff and every level of physician and operational leadership in goal setting, action plan development, and performance tracking. A key component of successful implementation is training leaders and teams in the ODS process. Training sessions for all levels of leaders included a review of the principles of ODS, the OA3 and gate chart templates, and the TAPE reporting format, and included time for discussion and questions. Implementing operational goals, management for daily improvement and cascade reporting, and communication were key areas of discussion during these training sessions.

Stakeholder experience

To gauge the stakeholder experience, VPs and Director-level physician and operational leaders were surveyed about their experience with ODS. Among the 54 respondents, 61% agreed or strongly agreed that ODS has allowed them and their upline to focus on key areas for operational success. Moreover, 69% agreed or strongly agreed that ODS effectively aligns operational tactics with system strategy.

Lessons learned and next steps

The ODS at Corewell Health initially faced challenges as leaders at all levels adjusted to this new form of tracking and presenting metrics. As the process matured, these perceived notions morphed into support, engagement, and eagerness to introduce new ideas.

Survey results indicate that the leaders perceive improved focus in key operational areas due to ODS. The system has been adopted outside of service lines as well. Hospital medical staff leadership embraces value in aligned goals and now reports on the executive dashboard. Independent physicians are looking at ways to use ODS to improve their private practice structure and function.


Implementing ODS at Corewell Health has been thought-provoking, enlightening and rewarding. Previously top-down leadership in this space has moved to shared decision-making. As ODS progresses through year three, physician and operations leaders will build on lessons learned and broaden skills to make ODS an even richer process and a model for other organizations to follow.


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