Within days of the arrival of the coronavirus, our phones started ringing off the hook with clients asking “How do I manage employees who are working from home?” It can be a very different challenge than what managers are used to, but with a little planning, it can be done successfully. Working from home in a crisis will be temporary and should be recognized as such.
Stay focused on company goals and not employee activity.
Managing activity can be exhausting and more importantly, counterproductive. Be clear about what you need your employees to accomplish and establish deadlines and schedules for workflow.
Your routine will be different and you may have additional responsibilities along with staying in touch with remote employees. Take notes when you communicate with them and save relevant emails in one place. Your organized approach will help keep everything under control.
Be very clear about your expectations.
Employees will need to understand exactly what is expected of them. Prioritize regular check-ins. In some cases it can be helpful to have employees prepare a daily agenda. It will help to clarify what they need to accomplish and will give you a guide for following up on their assignments.
Be clear that the assignment is temporary.
Many employees see telecommuting as a benefit and may want to continue after the crisis is over. Unless you are open to changing your current arrangement, It is important to be clear that this is a temporary assignment. If possible, give them a specific date that they will return to the office.
Set work hours and respect them.
You may be working 24/7, but resist the temptation to send emails and texts outside of planned work hours. Of course, there can be exceptions for urgent matters but it’s a good idea to discuss this with your employees in advance. Businesses that cross time zones are one exception. Make sure employees understand what hours you expect them to be available. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to be available to answer the phone or respond to texts during regular business hours.
Make sure they have access to tech support.
Arrange for employees to have access to IT advice and tech support if they run into problems. Computer glitches can be hugely frustrating and slow workers’ progress. Having a means to address these issues will save time and keep things running efficiently.
Plan regular video meetings to keep everyone motivated and on track.
Use these few tips for a successful call. Organize your agenda and keep the meeting brief and to the point.
Include time to motivate your team and reinforce your goals. Make sure your microphone is muted when you are not speaking. Arrange your computer so the camera is set up at eye level. Odd angles can be very distracting. Make sure the background is professional looking. No messy kitchen counters.
Balance flexibility with structure
Remember that employees are different and not everyone is cut out to work from home. These people will need more attention and structure. Don’t micromanage but communicate regularly to make sure they stay on task. Others will be very productive on their own and will need a lot less of your time.
As business consultants, this is the advice we are sharing with our clients.