Having worked from home for nearly the last seven years, I know a thing or two about flexible work – and the challenges of working remotely! During this time, I’ve managed a team of nine, worked on training documents to support managers with hybrid working and developed a digital campaign with Deakin to highlight the flexibility amongst its workforce.
Given the pandemic, you may not have had a choice when it comes to remote working. This is challenging, and I acknowledge that it may not be the kind of workplace you’re used to or comfortable with – especially if you enjoy the social interactions you have in the office. However, if you’re able to reframe the challenges as a silver lining – that we’re all learning new things – hybrid working may prove more manageable. You’ll be able to understand how to best empower your employees, improve your management style and increase the productivity of your team. Here’s how.
If you’re now managing staff who are working from home, my key tip (or three!) is simple: trust them.
In my experience, staff who work from home often put in more hours than they would in the office and, more importantly, they deliver better outcomes. I’ve found my employees are more motivated to deliver when they’re given the freedom to manage their own schedules. Not to mention, there’s no commute, which saves time and money. Your staff know what makes them most productive and if your recruitment decisions were sound then you have nothing to worry about.
Quickly establish the regular use of a collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams or Slack. I’ve had great success with Microsoft Teams, and found that it created a sense of camaraderie with a team that was rarely together in person. The tasks function is also simple and useful – it’s great for keeping the focus on tasks as opposed to time and holding people accountable. Lastly, video calls are a must and need to be regular. Don’t get caught in the trap of sending email after email – call and insist, if possible, that video is turned on. Be present with your staff, understand how this experience is working for them and what you can do to make it easier for them.
Get your staff to tell you how much time a task is going to take, get them to provide you project plans (if you don’t already) and set deadlines. Obviously you need to be adaptable but focus on these tasks and the deadlines as opposed to time spent sitting at a desk.
If your staff do have young children at home or other caring responsibilities, recognise that this could be a significant barrier that is currently out of their control. Ask them what you can do to support them.
I am very excited about the long-term benefits of this change in working conditions for staff and employers. If you’re finding it difficult, reach out to those – like myself – who have been doing this for years, draw on their learnings and experiences. Bree Gorman can help you draft flexible working policies, deliver online training to managers on flexible working or develop some guidelines that can assist with a smooth transition. Get in touch today.
Two final pieces of advice: Keep a jacket next to your home desk to dress up your PJs when a video call comes in and, if you have kids at home, I’ve found Bluey episodes to be a life saver!
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