Home Working can work for employers and employees.
It’s recognised that home working doesn’t suit everyone. Home workers need to be self-motivated and trusted to manage their work while working away from the office.
Line managers are often the ones who object to home working, and this is because they don’t know how to adjust their style to that of managing homeworkers. We can help coach your team leaders and managers in the effective art of managing remote workers.
Employers might want to consider punctuality, self-motivation and personal work preferences of employees based before taking on a new home worker as this is key to managing remotely. Before recruitment, organisations will also want to test the technical skills required for the role. For example, attention to detail or following instructions testing within timelines can help you to trust the employee.
When Pearn Kandola conducted their study, they assumed, as most of us would, that introverted personality types would thrive in a virtual work setting. After all, they tend to be shy and keep to themselves.
They are generalising to some extent, but researchers were very surprised to discover that in fact, extroverts are better suited to remote work. They get their energy and motivation from keeping in touch with people and going out and meeting with clients. Because of the reduced contact introverts have with people, they are less likely to keep in touch with their team members. Extroverts appreciate being trusted to work independently and usually enjoy the flexibility that comes with the territory. [Source: Understanding and managing the mobile workforce.]
Remote workers tend to be independent and therefore appreciate being trusted to work independently. Many managers want to track their remote employees with diary sheets and weekly updates but not only do employees tend to fill out these sheets inaccurately (to appease the manager and essentially, get them off their back), the practice undermines trust and can seriously decrease motivation. Rather than micromanaging them, work on developing a dynamic in which they take personal responsibility for meeting their targets. At home, people don’t experience what we call the “cake in the break room” effect. Offices can be extremely distracting places, and that’s one of the reasons that we’ve seen increases in productivity.
The overriding reason for increased productivity is attributed to the fact that the people at home, worked more hours. In the pilots, I have run they started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day. They had no commute. They didn’t run errands at lunch. Sick days for employees working from home plummeted. Search “working remotely” on the web, and what comes up will be negative and say that telecommuters don’t work as hard as people in the office. But actually, our experience is quite the opposite.
To be an effective manager of remote employees, adopt a management by objectives approach as opposed to over observation. This entails setting goals and action plans with your remote employee, then evaluating their performance based on the outputs or results. When employees are involved in the goal setting/course of action planning, they are also more likely to fulfil their responsibilities.
- Establishing clear objectives & team goals – Homeworkers should have objectives from day 1 and understand how they fit into the purpose and vision of the team and deliver team objectives.
- Required standards/expectations should be clear from the outset, and shorter timescales can be helpful
- Reflect on the worker’s performance objectives, specifically whether they are meeting their objectives in your meetings
- It is within your remit to observe the quality of their work, for example, whether the worker is frequently asked to re-do much of their work, just as you would an office worker.
- Considering whether the worker is completing tasks promptly and meeting deadlines. Consider also whether the worker’s time spent on work tasks is comparable to their office-based counterparts.
- NPS or client surveys to enquire about the level of service the worker has given your clients.
- Conducting random checks such as reviewing the worker’s telephone calls, email exchanges or internet usage.
- Monitor the worker’s creativity and the value they add to the workforce.
- Understanding individual roles – ensure the worker has a clear job description and organogram showing how the roles fit together.
It’s important to communicate regularly with remote employees to build trust and build a close, supportive relationship with them. It’s very important that managers try and put yourself in their shoes. They too can face many pressures. To help alleviate some of that stress, it’s critical to validate their roles and make it clear to them how important they are to the organisation.
- Personal Contact – one of the fears homeworkers have isolation. Consider setting up regular team events either face to face or online, bring the worker into the office / set up an online meeting on Day 1 to meet the team and ensure regular time for 1:1 catch ups are scheduled (and stuck to).
- Communication channels – Agree the best times for contact and which methods to use when. What should workers email about, what should they phone about? What can they handle on their own and not tell their manager about, what should they handle on their own and then contact their manager and what must they contact their manager about? Agree how questions can be raised and how feedback will be provided. Agree on team rules about communication, for example, when to cc, when to email rather than phone
- Getting to know each other – meetings can be very task focused, when you’re managing Home workers it’s important to ensure that there is time for conversation too. Maybe ask about the best thing that’s happened to them that day or week or ask them to talk about one thing that is challenging them.
- There is a panoply of resources to help make you and your remote workers’ lives easier. It’s important to know what the latest innovations in technology are and try to adopt them. Access to e-mail and the company Intranet is a start, but there are other available technologies that can help build stronger teams and improve overall organisation.
- For instance, Slack and similar systems have discussion boards, blogs and even a water cooler site where members can post photos and discuss various topics related to work and the industry can help create stronger bonds and keep the remote employee in the work loop.
- Setting up a Wiki, where all employees can access company information (operations guide, important documents, deadlines, FAQs, team calendars, etc.) is a great way to track progress and organise information among large groups.
When the new home worker has just started, you may feel the need to call more often but again; this should be supportive rather than ‘checking up’. As the trust builds and you become familiar with the employee’s style of working you may find that you need to review their progress less frequently.
- Set clear ground rules – agree hours of work, attendance at meetings, communication response times.
- Develop a Home Working Policy – ACAS have a template you can use, alternatively contact the team at Forbury People who will be delighted to help you.
In the Harvard Business Review, Professor Nicholas Bloom and graduate student James Liang, who is also a co-founder of the Chinese travel website Ctrip, gave the staff at Ctrip’s call centre the opportunity to volunteer to work from home for nine months. Half the volunteers could telecommute; the rest remained in the office as a control group. Survey responses and performance data collected after the study revealed that, in comparison with the employees who came into the office, the at-home workers were not only happier and less likely to quit but also more productive. Set up your own pilot on the same lines.
Managing remote employees has its challenges but with digital access to information is so pervasive, more and more businesses are beginning to see that remote work can, in fact, increase corporate productivity and competitiveness. Managers of remote workers just need to adjust their management practices to overcome the distance and effectively support their remote employees’ performance.
To find out more about how we can support your organisation to adopt homeworking then contact Ruth directly on email@example.com or call 07976 509 551.