As of 2018, more than 5% of Americans have reported working from home at least some of the time. As technology advances and workers seek increased flexibility, this number is only going to grow. But while telecommuting has benefits for both employers and employees, many companies fear that letting people work from home will lead to decreased productivity.
However, there are ways to help employees stay motivated while they enjoy the benefit of being able to work from home. Read on for 8 tips to ensure productivity when employees work from home.
Set Mutually Understood Expectations
When allowing employees to work from home, it’s important to set clear expectations and guidelines so people will know what is and isn’t acceptable during the remote work day. These expectations can cover things like time tracking and communication policies.
When working remotely, employees can use tools, such as Microsoft Excel, to keep track of their time throughout the work day and to keep a detailed record of what they do throughout the day. Employees should also be overly communicative of their availability with their co-workers by letting them know their plans.
Consider using a “General Calendar” where all employees can mark when they plan to work from home.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Communication is a big part of any work atmosphere, but this is especially true when your employees are working remotely. Communicating as much as possible can help lower the chance for misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is clear on exactly what is expected of them. You and your employees should also be available to quickly respond to emails and other messages during business hours.
To better communicate throughout the day, consider using an “instant chat” so that coworkers can quickly communicate with someone who is working from home. Employees should also give their personal phone number, just in case of emergencies. If there is an urgent problem, it is important that employees working from home can respond in an urgent manner to avoid costly mistakes.
Trust Your Team
Being able to trust your employees is a must when you have people working from home. Although you’ll definitely want to communicate and check in with your employees, you don’t want to make them feel like you’re breathing down their necks and constantly watching them. This is where trust comes in.
It’s important to be able to trust that your employees will take care of their responsibilities when they’re working from home. When you work with a team you can trust, you’ll find that concerns about their productivity will disappear.
Give People the Tools They Need to Work from Home
You always want to make sure you’re setting employees up for success. For remote workers, this could mean making sure they have all of the necessary equipment they need to do their jobs. For example, ensure that all of the work computers are working in top condition when employees plan on bringing them home. Keep all software updated and be sure that the equipment won’t crash unexpectedly.
You’ll also want to make sure that their home provides a functional environment for them to get work done. Ensure that your employee has an internet connection at home and that they aren’t surrounded by distractions. You may want to consider providing a home office stipend or suggest a cheap home warranty for employees who do a majority of work from home.
Extend Your In-House Culture to The Virtual Office
Culture is a big part of most companies. A company’s overall vibe can make or break an employee’s experience, so it’s important to keep a positive culture at the forefront. This means finding ways to make employees feel included and valued when they’re working from home while keeping the company’s goals in mind.
Extending your in-house culture into the virtual world can be tough, but it definitely pays off. A few things you can do to build this atmosphere is to give virtual shout-outs, scheduling conference calls, and utilizing a company-wide chat/messaging platform.
Provide Opportunities for Collaboration
For some people, working from home can be a bit isolating, especially for people who really enjoy working with others. If your employees’ tasks require a lot of teamwork, it’s important to give them plenty of opportunities to collaborate. Offer them chances to video chat or use tools like Google Drive to work on projects together.
Find the right tools that will work for your remote employees. There are many resources out there such as zoom, email, asana and slack.
Laura Handrick, Careers Analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com uses slack with their company. She has felt that it has been more productive than emails. She states,
"It's a great tool to collaborate across borders by providing just-in-time video conferencing as well as communication channels that provide transparency into work done by teams and divisions. We have a Slack channel used for praise, our overseas team uses Slack for camaraderie, divisions use Slack to share key messages and attachments (by pinning then to the communication channel). And Slack is just fun. You can poll your team for input, post gifs, memes ,and emoticons and even share links and videos to make a point. As a company with about 2/3rds of our staff remote, it's a great way for all to feel engaged and stay in the loop on everything."
Goal setting is a great way to boost productivity because it gives the employee a clear outcome to work towards. Work with your remote employees to set long-term and short-term goals and check in with them periodically to see how they’re progressing.
A great way to help employees keep track of goals is to give them a concrete outcome for their work. Every day, they can send their progress report directly through email including information like “Today, I completed the following” and “Tomorrow, I plan on completing the following” and “I have completed X and I have X left to do until reaching my goal of X.”
Greg Dorban a millennial success coach agrees that goal setting will boost productivity. He states;
"the biggest productivity gains is in having clear KPIs and removing wastage. If you really look at what makes the difference it often comes down to 2 or 3 things. If you build targets and KPIs around this, many other tasks that are keeping staff busy aren't actually adding value. So, you improve productivity by taking away some of these needs."
By helping your employees with their goals, they can know what they need to work on and not just aimlessly work. Be sure to encourage your remote employees to report on any roadblocks that keep them from doing their best work, and help them to resolve those issues.
Giving your employees flexibility extends beyond just allowing them to work from home. You should consider allowing remote team members to work hours outside of the standard 9 to 5 shift. Instead of focusing on time spent, shift your mindset to focus on the amount of work being done.
Think about when your employees are most productive and allow them to work during that time. As long as people are getting their work done at the appropriate pace, this shouldn’t be an issue for many employers.
As working from home slowly shifts to the norm, you can use the tips shared above to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your employees are as productive and happy as possible.
Amanda Turner is a freelance writer and recent graduate who is exploring her passions through writing.