With recent events, a huge number of organisations have essentially been throwing into the deep end when it comes to working remotely. While it might have been accessible for a number of years, employers globally have preferred to have their employees come into the office for a number of reasons, chief among which, I believe, is the sense of belonging and purpose that fills an employee with motivation to achieve their best results. Now, however, in the midst of a pandemic sweeping the globe, employers have had to adapt on the fly when it comes to letting their employees work remotely.
That’s why I’m here today, to run you through some of the best practices you can implement when it comes to your organisation’s working from home policy, to ensure that while your employees are doing the socially responsible thing to curb the increase of the virus, their efforts at home are pointed, informed, productive and keeping the organisation moving through a particularly tough time. As with a number of things in life, what might seem daunting at first is actually painless exercise that has a number of benefits in store when you get your hands dirty and get to work.
Let’s start off with some of the benefits of working from home, then cover some of the negatives that your management team or HR department should be made aware of before you form your remote working policy. If you’re more interested in our guide to preparing your policy, skip ahead a paragraph. Now, as I mentioned before, the reason why a large portion of humanity is working from home right now is to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus. If we look past this as the motivational force, however, it’s important to note that employers that allow their employees to operate remotely build trust, drive employee engagement - this is, of course, dependent on the member of staff - as well as eliminates a number of the variables that can cause an employee to waste time while in an office. If balanced correctly, remote working can be one of the most productive, psychologically-supportive and of course, practical means of operating. If it’s not executed well, however, you risk having unproductive employees, isolating certain vulnerable members of your staff, distracted by things in their house, as well as making it more difficult to draw the line between their personal and professional lives.
Moving on to the remote working policy itself, this is designed to formalise the agreement between an employee and the organisation that they work for that includes clear definitions of roles, expectations and the responsibilities to which an employee will be held accountable to while working remotely. While this might previously have been seen as more of a niche document to have ready and waiting, in light of the recent circumstances, it’s an absolutely essential document to have updated and ready to go. From an employee’s perspective, when they’re fully informed on each and every aspect of their role, and what they’ll be held accountable for at the end of the week or month, their efforts will be much more directed. From an employer’s perspective, a manager can feel more assured that the organisation is moving in the right direction, with members of staff - while not in the same room - moving the organisation in the same direction, toward the shared goal, or the company’s vision.
Putting Together Your Remote Working Policy
From the outset, the management team needs to be proactive about setting expectations, and not leaving any stone unturned when it comes to listing deliverables that employees might be curious about. It’s entirely the management’s fault if something isn’t listed by the organisation, and an employee working remotely fails to adhere to an expectation if it wasn’t first of all listed for the company to view. This includes setting expectations for working hours, when people are allowed to take their breaks - to ensure that if someone needs to call you regarding an important issue, you’re available - as well as setting a policy for who needs to be involved in certain meetings and catch ups.
The end-goal of this remote working policy is to ensure that every possible question is answered, so your employees aren’t sitting at home, too scared to ask a seemingly stupid question to their manager that they don’t do anything at all. Your policy should incorporate every possible question regarding an individual’s dress code for interviews and meetings via skype, zoom or Google hangouts, as well as the preferred means of communication internally so you can streamline the communication in your organisation and ensure that no important message or question goes unanswered.
This, however, is the small stuff. The most important thing you can incorporate into your organisation’s remote working policy is to give them their ‘number’, which is a concept I’ve talked about a number of times previously. People work better - not just remotely, but in general - when they’ve got their number, the thing that they’ll be measured up against at the end of a month when you come together and look at the numbers. This figurative number encompasses their role and the subsequent responsibilities of that role, and it’s clear-cut whether someone has met those expectations by the end of a week or a month. If they haven’t, they need to be held accountable, if they did, then it looks as though they’re adjusting to the process of working from home pretty well. I think at this point it’s important not to punish anyone for not meeting their expectations in the first few weeks of them working remotely, particularly if the organisation has been vague in terms of plotting out the remote working policy. If, however, you’ve got a clear organisation chart mapped out with roles and responsibilities, and that’s been communicated across the board, then you’ve done all you can to inform your staff and it’s up to them whether or not they want to put in the hard work and meet their expectations.
It’s also worth noting a manager’s obligation to their staff while adjusting to a remote working basis. Managers and HR teams alike have an obligation to their staff to communicate with them regularly, and I suggest this shouldn’t be in a formal meeting environment, it should remain a relatively short, informal and casual ‘catch up’, to cover the basics of someone’s emotional state and whether they’re in line with the organisation’s short term goals and how that translates into their daily activities. Remember, it’s a solid process to get everyone into line, but when you do the hard work, you can rest assured that your team, while working remotely is acutely aware of how their efforts contribute to the business overall, which is invaluable in motivating the human psyche and maintaining productivity while working in a home environment.
A huge consideration should be maintaining a robust security policy, which can be put to the ultimate test when you’ve got staff members working from home, but logging into sensitive information on your clients and suppliers inside your network. It’s vital that you maintain a high level of cyber security awareness regardless of where your employees are operating; for my guide to working safely from home, click here.
I’ll leave you with that for now, and we’ll keep diving into the topic of the best practices for remote workers in future posts coming here on the Best Practice blog.
Thanks for your time,
Kobi Simmat, Director & CEO of the Best Practice Group.