Find yourself suddenly working from home? Whether employee or employer, there can be quite some challenges, can’t there?
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I’m thinking there must be a great number of people that have never had to work from home, finding themselves thrust into this situation, right? Forgive me if you feel being taught to suck eggs. However, I’ve coached numerous business people in the transition into their own business. With many really struggling through this initial change in environment between “work and home”.
So here’s a few pointers that you, or perhaps your staff might find useful, if yours is one of those business now having to work in this way.
Working from Home: The Employer’s Perspective
Lack of trust from management that “they will do a full day’s work” at home is one of the most common barriers to staff being able to work from home. As if these managers were able to “see” what their people were doing in the office all day”. But it’s still a real barrier for some.
My recommendation if you might be one of those, is to sit down with your staff (or if they’re already all at home, do so via technology) and openly talk about how you will all make this work. You might call it something different, but please don’t beat about the bush here. If you feel a lack of trust, then with the utmost of diplomacy, say so. And find some ways of overcoming it.
Or, why not seek the experience of a mate or mentor or business associate you trust and call them about this notion or transition? I’m sure you’ll go into your staff meeting much more buoyantly than if you go in negatively. (Tip: and don’t just call those you know will see it the way you do).
And then – together – work out ways in which both parties will feel comfortable that there is measurable productivity and progress able to be captured. On a side note, if this isn’t already in place, and people feel like they’re “being paid to show up”, isn’t this a great time to have to implement professional performance management processes? Where people are measured (and incented) to deliver measurably what is expected? And to do so confidently and enjoyably? Knowing that they are contributing to a successful outcome nonetheless?
Another very important process is to start and finish the day with a group call that has everyone on board. A call where the focus for the day can be discussed. Where any relevant market or environment changes can be updated. In which insights from customer or vendor or conversations with other parties can be shared. And high-five’s can be celebrated. And where challenges affecting the whole organization can be discussed and supported. It also serves to reinforce the belonging aspect necessary to support good teams, particularly for the extroverts, who will hate being cooped up at home.
(Please remember that this is not the time to openly criticize or berate mistakes, OK? Those only ever happen one on one!
We are all facing some bumpy times as our IT infrastructure across Australia suddenly has to cope with unprecedented demand for bandwidth. All the different tools like Zoom, Web-Ex, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype, even Face Time etc have all built very stable reputations, but need sufficient internet capacity to work nonetheless.
Video is best to have everyone on the call “committed”, but is usually “the first to go”, when connectivity gets flaky. Then please switch to voice, rather than to give up completely. Having staff “call in” with their phone often helps by-pass the required internet load. You’ll need to figure out for your team or organization what works best for you.
Sharing screens means one-way “picture traffic” to the participants, and usually utilizes “adequate corporate infrastructure”, whereas video “coming back” needs capacity many home based internet bandwidths can’t handle. If none of that works, please email slides or agenda papers to everyone in good time before the call. So they have enough time to consume and respond to it. And that everyone has it to refer to during the call.
Working from Home: The Employees Perspective
A growing number of people have already experienced working from home one or more days a week. It’s certainly a growing phenomenon in today’s workplace environment.
But many aren’t and find this quite new. Here’s a few aspects that may help with that:
- Separate yourself in working hours as well as you can from the rest of the home and others with you at home at the time. The dining room is the most common place, but is usually plagued by much thoroughfare.
- And sometimes your family circumstances may necessitate you spending a couple hours of your work day after the kids are asleep. But please don’t forget to find agreement with your partner, when you’ll work and when you won’t, so as to manage expectations.
- Ensure you “negotiate” with others around you when you can be interrupted or distracted. Particularly kids need quality time to reward them respecting that.
- Make confidential or “difficult” calls requiring your absolute concentration in “private” places. Or maybe even in the car, if that’s the only place to assure that.
- Be sure to introduce a time plan for each day and the discipline to stick to it. Work when it’s work time and play or relax when it’s not. Just as you would at work.
- Keep to your lunch and break times. so you aren’t just “sucked into working all day”. Fatigue affects productivity and clouds judgement.
- Particularly if you’re an extrovert, plan sufficient calls across the day to keep you energized.
- But even introverts can become lonely. Be sure to have enough interaction with others via technology appropriate to the purpose.
- Plan calls into times you know there’s less distractions.
- Remember when on business calls to let them know you’re at home and to please tolerate the possibility of certain interruptions.
- Be sure there’s a group or team call at the start and end of each day, as mentioned above. If the boss doesn’t do it, set it up with your peers yourself. It’s too important not to.
- If in doubt, please call for help with certain issues, just like you would in the office, where you can just wander over to the right person.
- Not so much to be a nuisance, but working from home is best productively supported by more calls than if you’re in the office.
- And if you’re in “sales”, you’ll feel hamstrung not to be able to visit your prospects or clients, I know. Just keeping in touch via the phone regularly is so important to try and maintain that face to face based rapport you had built in the past. And when you do, find an agreement with them “how much is too much”.
- Be sure to practice your presentations online. You’ll have to do many, many more online now. Because you may not be “seen” due to bandwidth constraints, your slides and your “story” needs to compensate for the lack of your personal connectedness.
- Just because you’re working from home shouldn’t prevent those important one on one development conversations with your boss. If they don’t, then you set it up. And please remember if you’re a boss, that applies to you too. These are the things often “forgotten” and that comes at an unnecessary price in the longer term.
My belief is that our current virus based challenges are going to be with us for some time. Please take the transition into working from home productively, professionally and enjoyably seriously. And if the boss doesn’t play the game, you and your peers have the power to “make this work anyway”, OK?