Enabling and supporting work from home

How do you know your remote workers are working?

I’ve seen this question pop-up recently on all of the business sites. Companies that are new to the work from home concept are struggling with the idea of managing employees that they can’t see. The trick to successful home work is to define certain parameters, requirements and new measurements.

First let’s be honest. Not all employees can work from home. Harbor Computer Services has been a work from home business since day one. We have learned that while working from home comes natural to some of us that it doesn’t to everyone. Some are just not cut out for it. Successful work from home people need to be self-motivated and be people that take ownership over their work and feel a personal responsibility to its completion. We have learned that if someone is going to fail at working at Harbor that it is because they don’t have this ability. We are not all created equal. Some people require direct over-sight; others will just wake up in the morning and start work because it is what they do. I’ve not found a good way to teach a person how to be successful in their independence if they don’t already have that certain something.

That is not to say that you don’t still have to support your staff working in their home offices. You absolutely do.

Supporting the home office worker

In the office employers support workers through social interaction, free coffee, social breaks, lunch breaks, free donuts, employee team building programs, and more. Just as you support main-office workers so too you have to support home-office workers.

  • Social chat communications channel (teams, slack, etc)
  • Care packages (tea, coffee, snacks, starbucks card)
  • In person meetings (we do ours once a week and they contain social as well as business)
  • Inclusion in team building
  • Equal sharing of resources (office supplies, computers, etc)

These things will make your home-office workers feel less isolated. Make sure not to treat them any differently than in-office workers. Doing so will take some effort but it will make them will feel part of the company. This may mean a change in your office communications to force all communication to be had in an application that the home-worker is included in. At Harbor we have successfully replaced all internal email with Teams chat and channels. In addition, we have an established AllTechs chat where the ephemeral chit-chat and once off requests can be had.

Defining the home-office

Home-office need a definition. What constitutes an acceptable office space? Your work from home plan should include the requirements for that office space. Ours are pretty common. Yours may include other conditions.

  • A current laptop
  • Encouraged second monitor
  • Dedicated space
  • Office should be quiet enough for client meetings
  • Household members that understand that when you are in your space you are at work
  • High-speed internet service

We use BYOD (bring your own device) for the office equipment including the laptop. We do reimburse office and internet expenses. Staff find that the most challenging aspect of working from home is not their own ability to retain motivation but to train their household members to understand that just because they see them in their office doesn’t mean that they are home. They are in fact at work. For houses with children at least one of my employee locks himself in to remind his kids that he’s really at work.

Technology

Your main-office workers need to be able to interact with the home-office staff just as easily and seamlessly as they do with someone in the next cubical. This means that if you don’t have good digital communication and meeting systems in place that you will need to adopt them.

Nearly 100% of our clients already have these resources through their Microsoft 365 subscription. Microsoft Teams is key for team building with your staff but other tools like the ability to install Office software at home, use Office online, hold online meetings using Teams, use Teams and OneDrive for accessing files and securing files via SharePoint. In addition, there are about 30 other applications in the suite that can be used to support your workers that you may not have explored.

Having access to resources in the cloud, whether home or not makes the integration of the home-office much easier. You should strive to bring everyone into the same eco system and not have different work methods for home vs main office.

Measuring work vs measuring hours

This will be the main challenge for managers. Productivity isn’t about the time spent at the desk. It is about the amount of work accomplished. Measuring work from home isn’t so different than what you did during the severe down-turn of 2008. Managers had to evaluate which workers were most productive and least productive. The least productive workers were let go first. High achievers were retained though the ordeal. It will be the same this time. But it shouldn’t take a crisis to have this happen. All businesses need to measure productivity rather than time in the seat to be profitable.

There are some tools in your Microsoft 365 suite that can help you with those measurements. To-Do and Planner can help you spell out the tasks. Forms can help you record the time on a task. Power Automate can help you move a project from person to person as it progresses.

If there’s on thing that switching from measuring hours to measuring work will expose, it will be the bottleneck and the weak links. Your business can only benefit from this. We’ll need to train you and your people to use these tools, perhaps modernize some of your business processes but it’s all available to you.

More help is on the way

I hope that this short article was helpful to your thoughts on how to manage the current situation and continue to move your business forward productively.

My staff is busy helping our clients get everyone setup for working remote. However, we are also working to bring information to you that will help you manage this situation. You’ll be getting an increased cadence of blog posts from us focused on this topic alone for the next couple of weeks. In addition, I’m currently recording short interviews with managers experienced in managing remote work forces, and we have some free online training resources that we’ll be sharing teaching your employees some new tricks that will make work from home more productive for your business.

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