The popularity of remote working has been growing for a few years. But the current COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend so much it became our reality.
Even when the pandemic is over, working from home will remain a common way for us to do work, although in a slightly modified version. In a recent PWC survey, most employers (29%) say they plan to allow three days of remote work a week. Besides, employees expect to spend only half of their time in the office.
So, regardless of your views on having the home office, your workforce expects you to give them the opportunity of using one.
So how can you manage that? Where do you start?
We’ve got you covered with our employer’s guide on working from home.
What Does Working from Home Entail?
Before we explore the how-tos, let’s understand what working from home means and the reasons why employees advocate for being given the option to work remotely.
Working from home means that employees fulfill their job responsibilities while staying at home using tools and technology to remain in touch with their colleagues.
There are multiple reasons why employees speak in favor of making work from home a permanent option. According to the remote work infographic:
- 75% of people say working from home benefits their work-life balance.
- 45% of employees want to work from home to spend more time with their families.
- 41% of respondents say they need an option to work from home to get rid of the stress from commuting.
The same resource claims that, while a fully remote option is the most attractive to employees, 72% of them would still appreciate a rotating schedule of working from both the office and home.
Work from home has a few significant pros and cons. On the one hand, work from home allows a more flexible schedule, and employees are less stressed because they don’t commute as much.
On the other hand, working from home can be very distracting, especially if an employee lacks self-discipline. Besides, not every employee is diligent in ensuring the security and productivity of their at-home environment.
A lot here depends on how well employers organize the work from home processes for their workforce and support their well-being.
Working from home vs. remote working, teleworking, and telecommuting
It’s common to associate working from home with remote work, telework, and telecommuting. Indeed, all these work arrangement types have the same idea. But there are a few minor differences in these terms.
Work from home is mostly a temporary arrangement—for the quarantine period or rotated with coming to the office two to three days a week.
Remote work, on the other hand, is usually considered a long-term commitment. This work arrangement suits freelancers and or those who work full-time for companies in different countries.
Telework implies that an employee does their work from different locations other than the office or their home. Thus, telecommuting is another term for telework.
Knowing the difference between these terms is important. The way you manage a remote workforce and work-from-home staff can be different since fully remote employees have other needs.
Which jobs aren’t the best fit for working from home?
Working from home jobs are getting increasingly popular, but not every occupation allows a flexible schedule.
There are a few industries that, based on their nature, don’t allow work from home:
- logistics (to some extent)
- retail industry
- hospitality industry
On the other hand, jobs that are the most home-office friendly include:
- web development
- customer support
- graphic design
- content creation
- therapy (to some extent)
Some industries still struggle with implementing the home office option. However, it’s a matter of time until we have the technology to manage more work processes from home.
Now, let’s discuss how to work from home successfully and what you need to do as an employer to help your staff remain productive.
1. Make the Employees’ Health Your Main Priority
Occupational health is among your top priorities as an employer. Even if you transfer your staff to the home office, it is still your responsibility to take care of their safety. Besides, maintaining good health is critical for employee productivity.
If your staff is going to be working online from home, here’s how you ensure their safety and well-being:
- Discuss home workstations with your employees. An ergonomic home workstation should include the necessary work equipment, a desk with enough surface area at a comfortable height, and a chair with back support. The room should have good ventilation and enough light. The optimal temperature is 22 C.
- Include breaks in their workday. Encourage 15-20-minute breaks, during which your employees can walk, stretch, or go outside to get some fresh air.
- Talk about the importance of good sleep. Some studies have shown the connection between poor sleep and job loss. Make sure to inform your employees about the hazards of not getting proper sleep for their productivity and health.
It’s normal if some of your employees disregard health guidelines at first. Your task as an employer is to inform your teams about the safety tips for working from home. For instance, you can hold a meeting before implementing the work-from-home policy and then organize more meetings once in a while to have your employees voice their needs and concerns.
2. Give Your Employees Tools to Remain Productive
Productivity is the biggest struggle for employees working from home. Remote work takes time to get used to—there are too many distractions around to keep you focused on your tasks.
How to be productive working from home?
Some of your employees might not have the tools and resources necessary to do work remotely. In this case, it’s your responsibility as an employer to provide them with everything they need.
First of all, make sure your workforce has all the equipment to work from home. It might be a laptop or a computer, a mouse, a keyboard, or a headset.
Next, you need to provide your employees with remote work software, which can be divided into five categories:
- Communication tools
Lack of proper communication is a common issue among remote teams. Luckily, today, there’s no shortage of communication software: Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc. If you’re on a budget, Google Hangouts is the best free tool for remote employees.
- Project management tools
Apart from online networking, your team might have a hard time working on projects if they are out of the office. That’s why, to ensure productivity, they will need project management tools (Asana, Trello, Wrike, etc.) to assign and track tasks.
- Time-tracking tools
How to monitor employees working from home?
You can always implement check-ins to make sure employees keep up with their tasks. However, check-ins can be counter-productive. Besides, you don’t want to get a reputation as a micromanager.
If time tracking is essential for the job, provide your employees with scheduling tools (Toggl, Everhour, Hourstack) and monitor their workday without breathing down their necks.
- Learning opportunities
Nothing can discourage an employee from doing a task like the lack of proper skills. And while your employees won’t always have the opportunity to attend in-office lectures and workshops, it’s essential to provide them with online learning opportunities.
There are plenty of online course platforms your employees can use: Coursera, Udemy, edX, etc. Just make sure that taking a course is necessary and justified.
- Mentorship tools
There is a possibility that work from home will weaken company culture and disengage your employees. Mentorship tools are a good solution to bring your employees together, improve motivation, and facilitate productivity.
Together Platform is an excellent solution for employers who want to try mentorship programs. You can integrate their tool with Zoom or any other communication software and have your remote employees meet new people and provide them with learning opportunities. A mentorship tool gives your employees another chance to connect.
3. Create a Remote Work Policy
A remote work policy is an agreement between an employer and an employee that includes the requirements and responsibilities of both parties to ensure safe and productive remote work.
A work-from-home policy should include the following elements:
- Policy purpose. This introductory part briefly describes the policy’s objectives.
- Scope. This part outlines the positions that are eligible for the home office. It also outlines the employees’ responsibilities, work-from-home conditions, security issues, payroll tax procedures, and how many days a week employees can work from home.
- Productivity measures. Here, outline the equipment, software, and other tools your employees will have at their disposal while working from home.
- Occupational health. Besides discussing health and safety during a meeting, you can include safety tips for working at home in the policy. Also, include procedures on the rights your employees have if they experience work-related stress.
- Response measures. This section should outline how and to whom your employees should report. Include information on the communication channels and how to use them.
The goal of the work from home policy is to manage employees working from home and organize their workday. You can also use this procedure to settle any workplace disagreements.
4. Set Daily and Weekly Goals for Your Workforce
It’s typical if your employees don’t know how to work from home if they never tried it before. That’s why, apart from productivity tools, you need to help them set daily and weekly goals to remain productive.
The best way to set the right goals is to use the SMART model. According to it, the goals should be:
Let’s break down each of these components.
First off, describe the goal using as many details as possible; it should target a particular area for improvement.
Next, each goal should have a metric that you will track to measure the goal’s success. The goal should also be measured on an ongoing basis.
It’s crucial to have a person that will be responsible for each goal. And, if no one in your team has the expertise to do the necessary job, you can outsource that work. For instance, you might need to hire an offshore development team to create an app.
Then, the goal should be realistic—you should have all the resources needed to achieve it.
Finally, each goal should have a deadline, which you should set based on your team’s expertise and resources available to you at the moment.
If you use the SMART model to help your remote employees set daily and weekly goals, they will be more motivated to finish the project and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done. Employers benefit from this approach as well—you don’t have to run multiple meetings a day to check in with the progress.
5. Advocate for Work-Life Balance
The problem with working from home is that it erases the line between work and personal life. Employees often don’t understand it, but the lack of work-life balance becomes apparent when they start overworking themselves.
Meanwhile, if there is no balance between work and personal life, it can lead to professional and emotional burnout. Your employees will become less productive, and all business operations will suffer.
So, besides talking about work-from-home requirements, make sure your employees understand the importance of work-life balance. Here are a few tips you can suggest along the way:
- Set the number of hours you’ll spend working. If an employee works eight hours a day, they should not go beyond that timeframe.
- Prioritize your tasks. Start with urgent and more complex tasks, then move forward to less time-consuming ones.
- Delegate and outsource. If there’s a possibility another employee has more expertise to perform a particular task, it’s better to delegate it.
Problems with work-life balance are often connected to the lack of time management skills. Luckily, this issue has a simple solution—sign up your employees for a video course or a workshop to help them learn how to manage their time better.
And remember—as an employer, you play a crucial role in your staff’s work-life balance. You can’t promote work-life balance while giving your employees huge volumes of work every day. A burnt-out employee is harder to manage than a happy and well-rested one.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly solidified the work-from-home trend. But even when it’s over, this trend will remain popular. That’s why it’s better to be prepared for it and optimize all work from home processes in advance.
Let’s quickly recap all our work-from-home tips:
- Prioritize the health and safety of your employees.
- Provide your employees with the tools to remain productive.
- Create an elaborate work from home policy and procedure.
- Use the SMART model to help your team set daily and weekly goals.
- Promote work-life balance to avoid burnout.
Are you ready to adapt your workforce to remote first? To keep your companies culture strong and inclusive while remote check out our webinar on how to utilize mentorship while working from home.
Author bio: Mariia Kovalenko is a content writer at Digital Olympus. She’s been working as a writer and guest contributor for over four years, specializing in topics such as social media marketing, email marketing, and link building. You can visit her LinkedIn profile to learn more about her experience.