With both local and statewide stay at home orders in place, working from home is the new normal. As businesses and their employees adjust to this reality, however, questions inevitably arise about the best ways to maintain team communication and productivity without a company office to serve as a home base. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard, and some tips and tricks to keep your business running when going into the office isn’t an option.
How do I set expectations for my team?
The most important element of a successful work from home program is clear expectations for your employees. A written work from home policy is the best way to make sure everyone understands your expectations and their responsibilities while working remotely. Communicate early, communicate often, and be available to answer questions and provide support to your team.
What should my work from home policy include?
If your company allowed telecommuting before COVID-19, you may already have a solid work from home policy in place. If not, consider adopting a policy that covers the following topics.
An explanation of who will be working from home. Are employees required to work from home until the pandemic subsides? Are they encouraged to do so as much as possible but allowed to use the office when necessary? Is there a limit on the number of employees allowed to work in the office at a time? How will you decide who works remotely and who works from the office?
Expectations for working hours. Will your company maintain regular hours while working remotely? Are the hours the same for all employees, or are they flexible? How will hourly employees track and report the time they have worked?
Confidentiality expectations. Are remote workers allowed to work from coffee shops or other public places? Should they refrain from phone calls or video conferences when privacy cannot be maintained? What if they do not have a dedicated home office and must work from a space shared with family members or roommates?
Technology requirements. Ideally, remote workers will use only company-owned devices to perform work-related tasks. Realistically, however, your company may not have enough computers, printers, scanners, phones, etc. available for everyone working remotely during this time. Are your employees required to use a VPN to access company resources? Are there any security requirements their personal devices must meet? Will the company reimburse employees for any costs they incur to comply with these rules?
Dress code. Will your regular office dress code apply for client meetings? What about internal team meetings? Consider whether a more relaxed dress code may be appropriate in some circumstances.
Acknowledgement. All employees working remotely should acknowledge receipt of the company’s work from home policy in writing. Employees already working from home can sign this acknowledgement through e-signature programs such as Adobe Sign, DocuSign, or HelloSign.
How do I keep my employees motivated and productive?
Encourage work/home separation. For employees who do not often work remotely, adjusting to an environment with little separation between work life and home life can be challenging. Make sure your employees understand that they are not expected to be available 24-hours a day, and encourage them to turn off the computer and take time away from work. Be patient with employees who might be struggling to perform their best during this time.
Overcommunicate. Again, setting clear expectations is the best thing you can do for your employees during this time. Let your employees know if you expect them to be available to answer phone calls or to respond to e-mails within a certain period of time. Let them know the best way to reach you with any questions or concerns. Don’t be afraid to adjust your policies as your figure out what works and what doesn’t, but do make sure everyone on your team stays up-to-date on any changes.
Schedule regular meetings. A lack of knowledge about progress being made on a project can make employees feel like their efforts are not being appreciated or like others on the team are not pulling their weight. Use these meetings to acknowledge the great work that your employees are doing and to keep them updated on the company’s progress as a whole. Even an informal “coffee chat” via video conference once a week can boost morale and give everyone a chance to catch up like they would at the office.
Don’t Focus on Face Time. Business owners and managers often fear that employees will be less productive when working remotely. This can lead to companies taking extreme measures to monitor their employees’ work habits, making employees feel like their employers do not trust them or do not have faith in their abilities to do their jobs. Consider sharing a calendar with everyone’s work schedules so that employees know when they can expect their teammates to be available. If possible in your industry, consider measuring employee success by output-based metrics such as the ability to meet deadlines and client expectations.
What else can I do to support my employees during this time?
Make sure your employees have the resources they need to do their jobs well. Give them access to tech support that may usually only be available in the office. Be available to answer questions and address any concerns they may have. Be patient and forgiving as they adjust to the changes that we are all facing. Above all, create a company culture that encourages feedback from employees, and don’t be afraid to make changes to meet their needs.
Should I Allow Remote Working after COVID-19?
This time can be a great time for your company to test out telecommuting and consider whether it will offer remote working as a benefit to employees in the future. Employees often appreciate the freedom and flexibility that comes with even part-time telecommuting availability, and it can be a great way to attract new talent to your company. If that’s not incentive enough, regular telecommuting can save your company money on office space and other expenses. Even if you have not considered a remote workforce before, stay open to the possibilities it may present.