There is currently a great debate raging: does working from home increase or decrease productivity? While some early indicators reflect a rise in productivity, it will take time for the data to sift out. Does working from home help workers focus? It depends. Remote work can help employees achieve a healthier work-life balance and decrease stress. That can increase staff retention. Working from home can also deteriorate team cohesion and short-circuit accountability. How can you set your department up for success if they work from home? We have three principles to guide you.
• Clear policies. Establish organization-wide expectations about how remote work should be practiced. Are employees expected to work set hours or can they define their own schedule? When should staff request time-off? How do employees manage employer equipment? Do you offer an energy or internet subsidy? This is an evolving milieu. Revisit your policies at least twice a year and adjust as needed.
• Open communication. Shifting from an on-site team to remote employees is a big adjustment. Keep lines of communication open to address any snags that come up. Establishing a new dynamic will take time and must be approached collaboratively. If you have concerns, express them kindly and candidly—then listen so that you can fully understand the situation and chart a path forward.
• Avoid abuse. Employers may fret about the potential for abuse that working from home affords. However, this cuts both ways. You can (and should) expect your employees to be actually working rather than splitting their attention between childcare and work tasks. That means you must also respect the boundaries of working from home. Do not expect that employees are constantly on-call, replying to messages on evenings and weekends. Supervisors can set the tone for their team by modeling engaged work during business hours and healthy time off on weekends and holidays.
Working from home is here to stay. With strategic practices employers can ensure that working from home benefits organizations and employees alike.