Work from the comfort of your house and get paid for it — this is the reality for countless employers in urban India, and a dream for others. With the advent of smart tools and products that help teams coordinate, communicate, exchange information, and delegate tasks, the concept of work-from-home, or telecommuting as some call it, is quickly finding popularity amongst the working class.
But the businesses community is not completely sold on this policy. Some have it as a part of their work cultures, some are in discussions to implement it, and the others completely on the fence about it.
So, why exactly aren’t companies willing to implement work-from-home? And even if they do, why don’t all employees get the opportunity to telecommute?
It all boils down to productivity. Many believe that it will decrease. But how long will companies stall on integrating the work-from-home policy when work flexibility is a critical factor that determines employee satisfaction? In fact, job seekers today expect work flexibility to be a part of the work culture. And together with various other factors, helps them decide their potential employer.
The work-from-home policy is a part of work flexibility. And with gig economy offering it in abundance, some companies already having it in place as a part of their work culture, and the acute shortage of talent in the country for which companies aggressively compete with their hiring rendition of finders-keepers-losers-weepers, work from home is not a question of if, but when?
It’s happening already, and most will follow suit. But what can employers do to keep productivity high when it eventually comes into the picture? Here are 6 such steps — in no particular order — to ensure that an employer telecommuting policy is a productive one.
Don’t breathe down their necks
When you offer the flexibility to work from home, you’re essentially trusting employees to take their responsibilities seriously without you having to monitor them.
Trust is key when it comes to telecommuting. Employees don’t feel comfortable when the employer enforces constant vigil. Of course, you can routinely check in on them via communication channels and ask for status reports, but you must trust them to do their jobs.
Once you trust them, they basically trust you back and perform their duties.
Give them all the tools they need
Since your employees will be working from home, you need to understand that all office amenities will not be available to them. They need the right tools and equipment to perform their duties, as they would if they were in office.
It’s up to you, as the employer to provide items that they can use to get work done. If not all, you can provide basic items need for productive work. For instance, you can ensure that the employee is given a working laptop and all tools/software/apps are updated.
If the employee doesn’t have internet, you can provide a dongle or a data card. If that doesn’t work, you can reimburse the costs of the internet which the employer pays on his/her own.
Be flexible about shifts
Every objective has a set deadline which must be kept. As the employer, you understand this and so does the employee. So, as long as the quality of work is not hampered, the deadlines are being met, you have no reason to be strict about what time the employee — that is working from home — punches in and out.
Be flexible about their working hours. As they’re working from home, you need to identify at which point during the day/night, they’re most productive.
Again, it’s all about trust — you have already offered the employees to work from home which shows trust on your side. So, being flexible in terms of work timings shouldn’t be an issue as long as you trust them to be productive whenever they buckle down and achieve targets.
Set (achievable) targets
Setting goals for your employees is an effective way of keeping tabs on the work they do. As such , you must define and communicate short and long-term goals to them.
This way, you are building a to-do list for the telecommuting employees. It saves them the time of having to come up with a plan. Moreover, you can ask them to communicate with you whenever a certain objective is achieved.
Let them know to send status reports of what has been achieved and what comes next (and when) at the end of each day. This way you get a clear understanding of your employees’ pace, and also get to know if they have run into any stumbling blocks that require your assistance.
Build and maintain dialogue
For tasks to be completed, all channels for communication must be kept open between the employer and telecommuting employees.
Since the work is being done remotely by individual team members, each must chime in with status reports, including you. Communication effectively eliminates misunderstandings and provides clarity about the tasks at hand.
As the lead, you must, therefore, let all team members working from home know which platform must be used to communicate. Try choosing a platform that is integrated with your mailing tools e.g., hangouts and is robust, in the sense that files, reports, information can be shared across multiple devices running on different operating systems without hiccups.
Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make it a point to let your employees working-from-home know that other forms of communication channels, such as — primary and alternate — phone numbers, email addresses must be provided if in case there are emergencies or the (chosen) communication platform fails.
Set the ground rules in advance
As the provider of telecommuting, you must establish the ground rules before employees actually begin. You must make clear to them what is expected in terms of work and communication.
Your HR department can have attendance and project management software where timestamps can be entered by the employee for when they’re working, completing tasks, or not working at all. Similarly, they must understand that they are to keep all communication channels open during work hours.
By doing this, you are setting policies in place of what’s acceptable and what’s not for work-from-home cases.
Apart from the tips mentioned above, note that although you and your employees will be collaborating online, nothing can bar integrating in-office culture on the digital forefront. You can motivate them by giving shout-outs for jobs well done, be approachable and open about any problems that may befall them, and communicate effectively.
These steps will reinforce their beliefs of getting the same, friendly, and open in-office treatment remotely. As such, they will be glad that you practise the open, diverse, and flexible work culture that made them pick you over others as their employer.
And this feeling will only improve employee-employer relationship, resulting in higher productivity down the line.