Working from home suddenly became popular this year. Almost overnight, we went from a situation in which most people worked in the office, to one in which they now work at home. Given the ease of the transition, many are wondering why such a monumental change didn’t happen before. After all, we’ve had the technology for at least a decade, and probably longer.
The reason, it seems, comes down to organisational limitations. Primarily, management isn’t comfortable with workers doing their work remotely. They want them where they can see now.
Now, though, they don’t have much of a choice. Working from home will become the norm, and staff will probably demand it as a “perk” of the job.
There are upsides and downsides to this new development. On the upside, companies can probably pay slightly lower wages because they no longer have to compensate for the daily commute. On the downside, though, they lose a lot of the synergies of the office. The trick, therefore, is to find remote work management principles that rock.
Get Everyone Working Together
Psychologists and business consultants are worried that companies are going to wind up with two sets of staff: the office “crew” and everyone else. Humans, they point out, tend to create in and out-groups.
Whether this is true or not depends on the culture of the company. Most firms don’t discriminate between different groups – and they don’t want to, either.
Managers need to try to bring people together. Things like hosting social events that include both remote workers and office staff can help create tighter bonds. And creating policies for how to treat remote workers can also help a great deal.
Offer Direct Engagement Regularly
Remote workers can sometimes feel a little cut off from the main action in the office. Mostly, they want to be a part of it. But technicalities can often get in the way.
Make a point of having face-to-face meetings with remote staff, even if it’s just once per week. Get them on Zoom or invite them to come into the office briefly if they live nearby. Get them to feel as though they’re a part of the “in-group”, so they don’t wander off and find another employer who pays better.
Schedule Their Time Rigorously
When people work in the office, they automatically knuckle down and get on with it. They don’t have a choice. But when they work from home, things are a little different. Employees can take liberties, leaving their bosses in the lurch. Most workers are honest about how they’re spending their time, but even so, it pays to be safe.
A lot of firms now use a template for staff scheduling. The idea here is to block worker time in a common-sense fashion so that each person can dovetail with everyone else. What you don’t want are dozens of emails piling up in employee inboxes, creating administrative gridlock.
Be Clear On What You Expect
Managers worry that employees will take liberties if they’re not locked down at the office with everyone else. But that’s not true. Most workers understand that they have a vested interest in working hard to sustain the company. Furthermore, the vast majority of people prefer to work alone, instead of surrounded by dozens of other people interrupting them all the time.
Even so, you’ll still want to be clear on your expectations for your team. You’ll want to set a bunch of minimal standards that people in your organisation should follow. And you’ll want to implement calendar sharing, so you can see who is doing what and when.
Respond To Their Queries Quickly
Remote workers can’t just pop over to your pod to ask you a question, like an office-based colleague can, so they often find it tricky to get help. Managers, therefore, need to consciously respond to their email and text queries, just as if somebody was physically present in their pod. They shouldn’t be brushed off or ignored. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Create Video-Based Coaching
Businesses can also neglect the coaching needs of remote workers, assuming that if they’re out of sight, their career ambitions have somehow disappeared. That’s not the case at all.
Managers, therefore, need to schedule regular video-based coaching to keep their skills up to date. They need to do everything they can to ensure that they continue progressing along their career path as usual. Remote working shouldn’t feel like a dead-end job where every day is Groundhog Day. It should be going somewhere.