With society today becoming increasingly demanding, working from home is a benefit a lot of forward-thinking businesses tend to offer.
It’s a clear indication that you trust your employees to stay on top of their work, be productive and ignore any distractions or temptations that may drag them away from their desk.
However, trying to get your employees to return the favour isn’t always guaranteed. That’s where good management comes in.
If you don’t get this element right, your work from home (WFH) employees may start to:
- feel like they’re not a part of the wider team
- slack off and do the minimum amount of work
- miss phone meetings and video calls
- deliver a poorer standard of work
- forget to finish simple tasks.
To avoid this, we’ve taken the liberty to put together four important steps to follow and implement.
Start with the basic principals
What happens when an employee is continually late to a normal office job? In most circumstances, they’d be warned and eventually dismissed.
So why should you have to put up with similar behaviours just because an employee isn’t turning up to your office?
Before a new WFH employee starts a job, you should draw out a set of rules and get them to sign a legally binding document.
This should include everything from how quickly they’re expected to respond to your messages to what they must do when there’s a staff meeting.
It’s also worth double-checking with your employee to see if their home is suitable for working purposes. For example, do they have a good internet connection? Is their office situated in their living room near a TV?
Be honest and establish whether the employee has any reservations about this benefit. Once you get to the bottom of their strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be in a better position to help them from a remote location.
To test this further, try asking employees a series of challenging questions to see how they would react. As a word of warning, don’t allow them to prep for these questions, as you won’t get an honest and open answer.
- How would you manage your workload if one of your kids was off sick for the day?
- What happens if your doctor only has appointments available in the middle of a working day?
- Would you be willing to train a new hire on-site and attend any exhibitions?
The more detailed you go, the more informed you’ll be to make an executive decision as to whether they are suited to working from home life or not.
Know when working from home isn’t applicable
So you’ve asked a few questions and got a better idea of an employee’s concerns – but how are you supposed to know when working from home isn’t appropriate?
A key example would be if your team works in a client facing scenario. In this case, working off-site can have a detrimental impact on relationships.
Age is another reason against giving employees working from home responsibilities. While we are totally against stereotyping the younger generation, this is a matter of giving them the environment to learn and thrive on.
Think of it this way; how are younger professionals going to pick up hands-on skills if they can’t even see the right people in the flesh? It’s your job to nurture them and give them the information they need to develop to senior status within your business.
The final example of when working from home isn’t right is if you can only offer this benefit to a certain individual or department. If you don’t apply the same principle across the wider business, some staff may feel like you’re favouring certain people – which can result in them leaving the company.
Apply best practices
The two most important elements to successfully manage WFH employees is communication and connection.
For instance, just because a staff member isn’t present in the office, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t arrange weekly meetings. Instead, use them as an opportunity to catch up, communicate and involve the WFH employee with the rest of the business.
Applying a clocking in and out system to ensure that WFH employees are doing the hours they claim to do is another essential measure. There are an array of software options which allow you to utilise this feature.
WFH employees can also feel isolated at times, so be sure to send out a weekly update highlighting achievements and birthdays in each department.
You could even run a weekly movie night or monthly book club where employees are encouraged to watch or read something and engage in conversation after. This should make everyone feel more connected.
Look out for key indicators
Giving employees the chance to WFH doesn’t always work very well. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to recognise when an employee needs a kick up the backside or is obviously taking advantage of you.
Some warning signs to look out for include:
- If they don’t clock in or out and fail to let you know when they’re away from their desk.
- If they miss key meetings or calls.
- If they are scheduling and attending appointments or engaging in other activities during work hours.
- If they send an abundance of work at the end of the day.
- If they aren’t very reactive to urgent requests via email or your chosen software.
- If their standard of work continues to slide.
Hopefully, these four steps will give you a robust blueprint on how to manage WFH employees. The main thing to remember is to maintain high levels of communication and keep the whole business connected. This way, the WFH employee will feel valued.
However, if you do recognise one or more of the warning signs, you should pull the plug on this benefit. As a manager, you need to be strong and keep employees aligned with the bigger picture. Working from home is a privilege, so they should treat it like one.
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