Working from home is becoming more commonplace within businesses these days due to the high demands of our lives.
For an employee, it’s a sign that their employer trusts them to manage their workload, stay productive and avoid distractions.
But what about when it goes wrong?
The truth is, if you don’t know how to successfully manage work from home (WFH) employees, they could start to:
- feel alienated and detached from the business
- take liberties and slack off
- missing important calls
- produce poorer work
- forget to do simple tasks.
To help you stop this from happening, we’ve included some considerations, best practices and warning signs to apply and look out for.
Get the fundamentals right
In an ideal world, it’s always good to create a WFH policy in writing before letting any of your staff take advantage of the benefit.
This way, you can lay out the rules and have a legally binding document that everyone signs.
In the signed document, you should cover everything from how quickly they’re expected to reply to your messages to what the procedures are if there’s an office meeting.
It’s also important to sit down with your employees and double-check that their home is suitable for working life.
For instance, do they have high-speed internet? Are there lots of distractions around the house?
Talking openly with your employees about their concerns and thoughts on working from home can give you a better idea on how to manage them effectively.
Conducting role-playing scenarios and asking your employees a set of challenging questions can help make sure that they’re equipped to face common distractions throughout the day. For example:
- What would you do if the kids walk in at 3pm and you’re in the middle of a meeting?
- If your hairdresser or barber can only fit you in at 2pm on Wednesday, what would you do?
- If you need to train a new hire, would you be willing to come in on your WFH day?
Cover as many situations as you like.
The more detailed you go, the easier it will be to determine whether your employee can WFH.
When is offering WFH benefits not a good idea?
There are some occasions when offering an employee the option to work from home isn’t such a good idea.
For example, if you need your team to be client facing, working off-site probably won’t be appropriate.
Age is sometimes worth considering as well.
While we highly recommend that you avoid stereotyping younger employees, it’s not always advisable to give a majority of them this benefit.
The main reason doesn’t have anything to do with the way they act or how mature they are. In fact, it’s a matter of education and growth.
What I mean by this is if a younger employee wants to develop and progress through the business, can they really do this at home without hands-on nurturing from a senior professional? I’m not so sure.
The final scenario which goes against working from home is if you are only planning on offering this benefit to a selection of people or a certain department.
Doing this might cause unrest among the rest of the employees, as they may believe that you’re favouring certain people.
Best practices for working from home
The key to managing employees who WFH is communication and connection.
Just because some or all of your employees work from home, don’t be afraid to schedule in weekly meetings.
This will give you time to catch up, find out if they need any help and address any challenges they’ve faced during the previous week.
You’ll also be able to plan their week, block out time around meetings and test a WFH’s punctuality.
Regular meetings are a good way of ensuring all WFH employees still feel a part of the wider team, which is integral to team performance.
Applying a clocking in and out policy is another best practice to implement as this will encourage your employees to work in a structured way.
There are also several apps and software options which enable employees and managers to chat, share work and conduct video sessions in real-time.
If you’re worried about WFH employees feeling isolated and left out, simply sending a weekly bulletin via email to highlight top performances and birthdays can remind them that they’re a part of the business still.
And if you’re feeling creative, you could always arrange a weekly movie night or monthly book club.
This will help spark conversations, give feedback and keep all staff connected to the same set of ideas.
Signs that your employee isn’t working effectively
There are certain times when employees don’t work as efficiently at home.
This all comes back to the signed policy agreement you implement beforehand.
If your employee isn’t pulling their weight, they’re breaking the rules of engagement of their contract, therefore, you’re within your rights to take action or pull the plug altogether.
Some warning signs to look out for include:
– The employee doesn’t clock in or out and doesn’t let people know when they’re away from their desk.
– They miss important meetings or calls.
– They’re found to schedule appointments and does other activities during work hours.
– They send an abundance of work at the end of the day.
– They’re not very active on email or software system.
– Their standard of work drops drastically.
As I mentioned before, connection and communication is a vital element of managing WFH employees.
Maintain relationships and you’ll successfully make them feel valued and wanting to fulfil their true potential day in, day out.
However, if you suspect that some of your WFH employees aren’t pulling their weight, don’t be afraid to call them out on it.
For the best company results, you need transparency, honesty and maximum effort from them. Remember, working from home is a benefit, so it should be treated like one.
Enjoyed reading this? Then you might find our previous blog useful: ‘5 Essential Tips for Managing a Team’.