Some are born to work from home, some achieve it and recently many of us have had working from home thrust upon us. In fact, so great is the push now to working from home that some may never return to the office since realizing the benefits.
That’s right. Working from home can prove advantageous for companies and employees alike; check out this piece in BuzzFeed News in which Twitter’s head of HR says “We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”
Whatever the circumstances for your work from home situation, we are in a fortunate position today that the tools to do so are broadly in place. That starts with connectivity and devices; with your smartphone and laptop, plus good internet, you’ve got most of the equipment to maintain productivity even if you aren’t in the office.
That’s not all there is to it, though. We’re a company which has a workforce distributed across 13 countries in the world. Many of our people primarily work from their home offices. So, I’ve put together my five top tips for making a success of it.
1. Equip yourself (and your remote workforce)
The technology tools are amazing, but remote work starts with the physical aspects necessary for productive people. This includes workspace and furniture. While many of your employees might have a study or spare bedroom already set up for the purpose, just as many won’t. If you’re working from home, consider your own setup, then establish what the case may be for employees who can do so too. Be sensitive and see how you can help set up your people best for their personal circumstances.
2. Focus on becoming a ‘remote workforce leader’
It’s not only a big change for staff members accustomed to working in an office – managing a remote workforce has substantial implications for managers, too. Focusing on becoming an effective manager of people now working from home requires flexibility, commitment and, now more than ever, trust and sensitivity. There’s a great piece at LeadershipIQ detailing the traits of successful remote leaders.
3. Focus on inclusion
Some thrive on independence. Others don’t. Use of free or low cost tools like Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams and wherever possible, conduct meetings ‘face to face’ with your camera switched on. We’ve got people working from home around the world, and almost always, we jump on Zoom for meetings so we can see one another, engage, and build camaraderie. Consider also using a chat feature and SharePoint (or something like it), making it easy for people to interact, share and collaborate.
4. Have regular meetups
Inclusion goes further, and when you need to maintain ‘company spirit’ so people feel a part of the bigger whole, regular meetups with everyone are important. Again, try for ‘face to face’ using video, rather than relying on voice (or resorting to mass emails). Regular sessions should be focused on driving engagement, sharing progress and challenges, company news and views. An open forum facilitates a sense of cohesion and belonging, so set regular sessions where everyone should attend.
5. Recognize achievements and ‘new’ behaviors
Change is never easy, particularly when there’s little choice in the matter. Over the last few months, we’ve all been dealing with a lot of change and uncertainty in a short space of time. Maintaining productivity in adverse circumstances can only pay off in the long term (and as per BuzzFeed, you might find some people actually become more productive working from home, as there are incentives – flexibility, work/life balance, and so on – which will spur them on).
Success depends on bringing your people along on the journey. Encourage a successful transition to working from home by recognizing and rewarding appropriate behaviors. Listen to what works and what doesn’t and share those experiences and findings with your broader team.
Few of us are thrilled with the prevailing circumstances, but that doesn’t in any way change them. Here’s the thing though, like many other people, I am immensely fortunate that the tools to work from home were already in my hands: laptop, smartphone, internet. Most of us use these things in our private lives already, and many of us already take work with wherever we go. By making the most of it and doing everything possible to maintain productivity through the hard times, we can set ourselves up for a rapid return to normalcy when conditions change for the better.