There are nearly five million workers in the U.S. who telecommute (work from home) for at least a portion of the week, according to a recent survey by Global Workplace Analytics and Flexjobs. That’s an increase of 159% over 12 years. Working from home is no longer a “nice to have” for job candidates and employees—it’s a perk that workers are starting to demand. Remote employees tend to be more productive, healthy and less stressed, but there are some considerations to keep in mind as you transition your workforce to a WFH environment.
- Set Clear Expectations for Your Employees
- Keep All Lines of Communication Open
- Make Sure Support and Supplies are Available
- Engage All Your Employees
- A Little Trust and Understanding Goes a Long Way
Company leadership and managers need to set clear expectations from the beginning. What hours of the day do you expect your employees to be online and available? How much and what type of output do you anticipate? Are there deadlines? Document and communicate exactly what you’re expecting out of a remote employee. Even when it comes to something as simple as delegating tasks or getting advice. You can’t just pass a colleague in the hallway and ask them their opinion or grab someone to “take a quick look at this.” If you want remote employees to tackle a project or weigh in on an assignment, you’ll have to make the effort to reach out to them. Create a work-from-home policy agreement to make sure both employer and employee are on the same page and understand the expectations. It should be straightforward, uncomplicated and easy for both parties to understand.
Communication is key to collaboration in a remote scenario and it’s important to develop a strategy that allows for the free flow of thoughts and ideas. Whether that’s through email, chat, teleconferencing or texting, both managers and employees alike should be confident in their ability to reach one another.
Set a communication time frame—perhaps instituting a policy that “all emails/chats/texts will be responded to within 24 business hours” is a good start – even if that response is just a quick note to say, “I’m working on it.” It acknowledges receipt of the initial communication and action is forthcoming.
Keep in mind how employees working in different time zones can be impacted and be sure to limit any urgent communication that falls outside their business hours.
When working in an office, it’s easy to lean over and ask a coworker how to access the shared drive or schedule a meeting. But when you’re working on your own, you’re on your own.
Part of a successful work-from-home policy requires upfront education on your company’s technology, so your entire workforce knows how to use it correctly. While setting up a teleconference or group chat may seem easy to one person, it could confuse another. Create a manual or guide with detailed instructions on how to do certain undertakings such as how to change your availability status or upload documents to a common folder. Consider using your learning management solution to produce quick how-to videos that demonstrate these tasks. Also, make sure everyone knows who to contact if there is a problem. Whether that’s IT support or a direct manager, share the contact information and proper procedure to take if an employee has a question, problem, or needs additional supplies.
Employee engagement is tough enough when everyone works onsite—it’s even more of a challenge for remote teams. But it’s not impossible! To keep telecommuters in the know, be sure to set aside time for one-on-one conversations throughout the week. If you can use Zoom or Skype to videoconference, all the better. Schedule regular team meetings and make sure everyone has a voice. If your company allows, try to get together at least once or twice a year for in-person brainstorming and bonding. Encourage your remote team to get to know one another and engage in a social manner. Afterall, it’s always nice to have someone to discuss The Bachelor with the next day.
Be sure to celebrate each success and recognize milestones, whether that’s with a personal note or a shout out to the entire group. Just because you’re not within physical proximity of one another, a remote team is still a team and should be appreciated whenever possible.
Implementing a work-from-home policy can take time to get used to and some employees will adjust quicker than others. Trust is a primary component of a successful work-from-home strategy, but a little understanding really does go a long way as you ramp up.
If you’ve set expectations, your remote team has the framework to effectively work from home. Allow for flexibility in your policy and you’ll be able to make changes and improve over time.
Download the template below for a Work From Home Agreement you can use at your organization.
Access Work From Home Agreement Template
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