Ten top tips for managing home-workers
As many teams switch from the office to working from home, new management challenges emerge. Here’s some advice for effective leadership and communication.
1. Help your team get set up
Before staff can work effectively from home, they need to get set up properly; this blog covers some of things to consider. Check they have not just the hardware and software they need to work, but also other items like comfortable chairs or headsets. Providing a little money to spend on home office set-ups can go a long way, though this will be a matter of budget of course.
2. Set structures
Routine is really important in working from home. Establish set times for starting and finishing work and breaks. Find the right times for jobs: mornings tend to be better for tasks that require a lot of concentration, for example. Ensure people take their breaks, and be clear on when and when not you expect them to be available. Letting people disconnect and revert to their home lives without feeling they need to monitor messages or calls is hugely important to their wellbeing.
3. Establish policies—and trust
Laying out the ground rules for working from home is crucial for employers and employees alike. This is a good chance to go back to basics and ensure that everyone understands their roles and objectives. Also be certain about employers’ and employees’ rights around working from home; this is a useful explainer. But as well as being crystal clear in expectations, it’s important to trust people and show you respect their ability to get their work done.
4. Find the right platforms and tools
Many businesses are now finding that there are a lot of online communications platforms to choose from! Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams are all used widely, and some paid-for services are now offering free or reduced price access. Instant group collaboration and messaging tools like Slack can help with staying in contact outside of meetings, and Google Docs is among the useful file sharing systems.
5. Constantly communicate
So much work in publishing requires liaison, and much more communication is needed when teams are spread apart. Plan a protocol of how and when you will communicate with colleagues, freelancers, partners and customers, and the ways you will track projects. It’s better to communicate too much than too little.
6. Call and video
We’ve all got into the habit of emailing and messaging when a phone call or face-to-face conversation would be better. The to-and-fro of emails is time-consuming, and their tone can be open to misinterpretation. Talking and seeing one another provides a much more human experience, especially in times of isolation. Encourage everyone to use their webcams and video rather than audio meeting platforms if at all possible.
7. Keep a spirit of togetherness
For some teams, the biggest challenge is keeping a sense of togetherness outside of the office environment. Feelings of isolation can be particularly intense for those who live alone. Solutions could include ‘drop-in hours’ for every day for staff to get together on a video meeting platform, or running virtual book clubs, coffee breaks or drinks gatherings after work. Slack has some nice social-focused apps to help.
8. Ask if people need support
Feelings of anxiety about the current crisis, together with the isolation and frustration that some home-workers experience at the best of times, can soon snowball. Ask people to be honest about their feelings and concerns. A little reassurance can go a long way. If you need to provide support with wellbeing, MIND has some excellent resources. This article has useful advice for staying positive.
9. Highlight the positives
There’s no doubt that coordinating home-working teams can be a challenge, but it’s important to remember and share the upsides. A lot of research indicates that remote working can increase productivity and creativity and boost morale, and give people a better work-life balance. From a commercial point of view, office and staff-related costs may well fall.
10. Learn from others and social media
As home working escalates, companies and individuals are starting to share best practice, and there are some good tips circulating on Twitter. Check the #RemoteWorking and #WorkFromHome hashtags for a combination of practical advice and humour!
If you have any tips of your own for working from home, we’d love to hear them and add them here.
See our other blog: Ten top tips for working from home.