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Working from Home: Is this the New Normal?

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The first thing to do is think about why you want this to happen. You need to make sure that this is a commercial decision and it is made for the right reasons.

A lot of your team may say that working from home is more efficient and they get more done. Make sure that it is a business decision made by you for your business. Make sure that the person working from home has exactly the right environment and the right structures to make sure that they get the work done. That is not saying they will not get the work done, that is saying that as a business manager you make sure it happens. Think of it as the induction of a brand-new staff member.  You would not bring a new staff member on board and me just throw them at it. Meet with the staff member, set up the structures, the reporting, the plan. Set up all the technology to make sure that the results for your business are stunning.  Also make sure that the results for the staff member are just as good.

Often with working from home, the environment can be a bit challenging. A lot of feedback I received during the lockdown was around the difficulty in dealing with interruptions at home during this time. Now that the kids are back at school, it makes it a little bit easier, however come 3:30 pm, most of them are back home so we need to make sure that is understood, and that everything is reported.

When we are working together in an office, a team culture is created. There are a few things you can do to maintain this while employees are working from home.

Firstly, speak to your team every day about where they are at, what they are working on, how everything is going for them. Think of it like the morning chat as you walk into the office, or as you are making a cup of coffee when you get to work in the morning.

Secondly, every day you need to have something – I am going to call it the daily “huddle”. This is where we are, what we are working on, how we can do better in the business. Think of this as the chat you might have around the photocopier. For example, while you are waiting for something to print off, asking a staff member “How are you going on this project at the moment?”.

Thirdly, set up a meeting three times a week. The meeting must have an agenda, and the agenda must be very formal. I do not mean massively formal and corporate, but a formal agenda around your milestones and what you expect this person to do etc. At the start of the week – What we are going to achieve this week? Mid-week – How are we going according to our plan? What can I (business owner, business manager) do to help? End of the week – where are we at? Did we get it achieved? Yes, we did – congratulations, well done etc. What can I (as the business owner or manager) do better, or how can I work with you to get it done?

Without these constant communications, plans and reporting, what will happen is that you, as the business owner or manager, will lose touch with what is going on.

So, you now have a person working from home, you have got a plan, the outcomes. You are doing your daily “chit-chat” in the morning, your daily “huddle. You are having your meeting two or three times a week to make sure they are on track. Then, as with any staff member, they need to know that they are part of what is going on in your business.

For example, if you have three of four people working from home, once or twice a week you need to be having a meeting with all the staff together. Where you all talk about what is going on in the business, and people can interact with each other, where it is very transparent (and perhaps a bit of fun at times!) and driving forward. A good idea during these meetings is to get someone else to facilitate, listen to, or be part of that meeting. Maybe have a guest come in to talk about something to help the business. Remember that we spend 30-40% of our time in work and working with each other, so it is a good thing to be learning all the time.

Another particularly important thing to remember is that just because you have someone working from home, it does not mean you should let their personal and professional development lag. You need to be giving them constant stuff to work on for themselves and the business. Too often, when people are working in an individual environment, they do the job and they do it well, and we say, “isn’t that great!”. Keep going forward on how this should be done for them.

Lastly, efficiency. Part of the reporting and the learning is to get better efficiency.

The reason you would work from home is that it reduces your cost basis, and makes the business more profitable, more efficient, longevity of staff etc.

The reason a staff member might do it is less travel, less stress and time being amongst the traffic, cost for using cars, parking, and public transport. Remember that what we both want out of this is efficiency. You want efficiency of operations and outcomes. Usually the staff member will want efficiency of their time and to be in an environment that they enjoy.

Working from home can be a great thing for the individual and for the business, but it’s  really important that you set it up well, that you induct it, that you manage it, you monitor it, and that you have reviews of it at all times. If it does not work, there is nothing worse than having someone working from home for 3 or 4 months and then you must tell them you want them to start traveling back into the office.

Set up your frameworks, set up your KPIs, and set it up well. It is a great way to keep people on board, but you really need to keep at it to make it work well for your business.