Working from home is an essential part of the new world of work. And COVID-19 has seriously accelerated this style of work. Here are ten tips to help home workers succeed.
Homeworking is nothing new. But for reasons we all recognize, the concept is now being extended to new groups of employees, managers, and leaders. This brings a new raft of responsibilities, actions, and tools to learn for all of them. Specifically, it falls on our managers and leaders to create the culture required to support new ways of working. And encouraging wellbeing, effective communications, and productivity. And poor homeworking environments will lead to distractions and reduced motivation.
Here are ten easy-to-follow tips to help you create the culture and environment required for effective homeworking
1. Daily calls
Many experienced homeworkers and managers will tell you that a short pre-arranged call every day is the single most powerful tool you can have. This can be a group call for a large team. It teases out opportunities and challenges like no other tool and connects everybody instantly. Note that they don't have to use video; voice will be fine. Attendance is the key
2. Information tools, technology
An obvious issue, not to be underestimated, is to ensure that everyone has access to the proper hardware, software, and internet connection speed from day one. Allocate the budget required to ensure systems are up to scratch. These costs will be nothing compared to the loss of productivity resulting from workers sitting idle or managing a data breach.
3. Use Assessments (wisely)
Assessing an individual's ability to work alone at home will pay dividends. It's not always easy to work out who will or will not be comfortable working from home. Your assessments should be based on sound logic rather than invalid assumptions. Assessing the human factors involved, such as personality traits, motivation, preferences, motives, values, and home circumstances, will help determine if any accommodations are required. Some people may benefit from partial homeworking rather than losing all face-to-face interactions.
4. Don't skip the training
It should be obvious that everyone needs to be able to use the technology. With remote working, it becomes even more critical that these tools are used consistently throughout a team. This is not as easy as it sounds. For instance, leading tools that support homeworking are Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom, but there are many more. These systems are pretty intuitive, but supporting user confidence will accelerate their speed to productivity. People are apt to store and use information in different ways, which might increase data security risks, so training Is essential. A reasonable degree of training and practice will be required for employee engagement, productivity, and data security.
5. Supportive Culture
In any group of employees, someone will struggle with technology. And if it's not the tech, it might be the isolation or the changing work environment that causes frustration. Whereas it's easy to ask someone sitting next to you or by the water-cooler how they are doing, it's more difficult when they are working at a distance. Make sure that you have a support structure in place to tease out and provide the support required. Embrace this early as change can be unsettling and cause real problems – people don't always like to admit that they are struggling with the new culture or can't use all the tech!
6. Buddy up
Inevitably, working from home can sometimes feel like you're working alone. It helps if you have a buddy or a mentor to turn to and share your challenges and successes. In mentoring programs, both the mentor and the student often benefit. But mentoring may not always be appropriate. In which case, an 'assignment' buddy - someone working on the same or similar project – can be equally supportive. Evidence suggests that this both motivates and increases accountability on a project.
7. Legal Considerations
Working from home may demand additional written agreements. These may, of course, already exist. As well as covering remote work expectations, you may also need agreements to protect equipment, expense, confidentiality, and security issues.
Metrics are helpful when managing people working from home. This is true for both managers and employees. Agreeing, setting, and discussing expectations becomes more critical when people work from home. Using and referring to scorecards, KPI's or OKR's regularly helps everybody understand your expectations and how they will be assessed. Note this should not be an excuse to change your organizational objectives and goals; there will be sufficient challenges to deal with anyway.
9. Spread the news
The lack of an office means you have to provide other methods for social interaction. Those interactions should include both information supplied by the organization and personal information that anyone wishes to share. The tools are less necessary than the messages. It could be something as simple as a WhatsApp, Teams chat, or a Slack group. Sharing good (or even bad) news; maybe an account win, or a big sale, employee award is motivational for employees working from home. You might consider having a "dress up for work" day and start your day with a video conference or creating an area for shared online positive experiences just for fun.
10. Townhall webinars
Weekly webinars are an effective way to share knowledge, ensure a consistent vocabulary and engage everyone. This can be made stimulating and enjoyable by representing a wide range of views with different presentation styles. The leader will manage the call, but bringing in presenters from other departments, team members, product managers, or support staff can be very effective. Alternatively, bring in an external expert to promote new working practices or to promote personal wellbeing such as mindfulness.