I have worked from home now on a part- or full-time basis for close to 7 years. I have managed a team of 9 whist working two days from home and having staff who regularly worked from home on different days and different hours. I have lived flexible working, managed flexible working and encouraged flexible working. I have written documents and provided training for managers who have staff who work from home or need flexibility. And finally, I have worked with some excellent animators, PillowFort creative, to create a digital campaign that encouraged leaders to role model flexibility (if you Google - “deakin leading with flexibility youtube” the video will pop up).
So, you could say I know a little bit about flexible working and working from home. It surprises me that in 2020 working from home is completely foreign and quite scary for so many businesses. I understand from a technical perspective that can be the case and I certainly can’t help if you don’t have access to the systems you need from home. But as for managing staff who are working from home – well I’ve got this covered and I have three key tips for you:
In my experience staff who work from home sometimes put in more hours than they would in the office but more importantly deliver better outcomes. When people are given freedom (or in this case isolation) to manage their own schedules and focus purely on outcomes – you find they are more motivated to deliver. Being able to work in the way that suits their lifestyle, responsibilities or working/learning preferences increases their productivity. Not to mention the commute - this 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.
I know for some of you this is not the workplace you are used to nor comfortable with. Your management style may need a lot of tweaking to adapt – I think that’s the silver lining in this cloud, everyone is being forced to learn new things. If you know what time your staff start and finish, then that’s the first sign that things needed to change anyway. If you treat staff like children, they behave like children – adults don’t need school bells. Now’s a great time to learn how to empower your employees, improve your management style and increase the productivity of your team.
Obviously in the current climate working from home is being forced on people that perhaps don’t prefer to work that way. People who know that children or washing or Netflix will serve as great distractions. People who really feed off the interaction and the socialisation provided at work. My advice is three-fold:
1. Quickly establish the regular use of a collaboration tool like Microsoft teams or Slack. I have had great success with Microsoft teams, it created a sense of camaraderie with a team that was rarely together in person. The tasks function is also simple and useful, 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.
2. Accountability. 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.
3. If 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 help – think outside the box.
I am very excited about the long-term benefits of this change in working conditions for staff and employers. If you are finding it difficult reach out to those who have been doing this for years, draw on their learnings and experiences. And if you need get some help. BG Consulting 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.
And my last piece of advice? – keep a jacket next to your home desk to pimp up your PJ’s when a zoom call comes in and, if you have kids at home, Bluey has new episodes out now ;-).
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15 October 2021
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