In this day and age of remote workforce productivity, every organization must be cognizant of what may be needed to have an effective and productive “work from home” (WFH) program.
That program needs to consider what is reasonable and what is required. In our current business climate, WFH may bring about challenges and concerns, and that is understandable. If you are struggling to have an effective program, it’s probable that your plan for effective WFH management hasn’t been detailed enough or documented at all. With the past (and potential future) rapidity of implementing pandemic requirements and the requirements for having a documented pandemic plan, this is a key area to assess and update regularly.
The following list includes some of the common WFH challenges and pitfalls to avoid. These challenges can range widely depending on the team member and circumstance and may include:
- Remote site challenges such as a lack of privacy when conducting sensitive work
- Unplanned interruptions
- Fatigue when team members are back-to-back with video meetings
- Not having one standard tool for video communications
- Remote interruptions from non-team members
- Limited information protection and cybersecurity controls
- Lack of robust technology and internet connections
- Accountability and time reporting
- Social isolation and limited in person “face to face” time
- Not being sensitive to all of the above and making the needed changes
Documented communications are key. Set documented expectations, train your staff on the process and have them sign off on the program. It is probable that you may need to have unique sets of these understandings due to a team or department function. There may be a difference in what is expected from the IT team vs the finance team vs a Department of Social Services team, etc.
While not all inclusive, hopefully the following information will help you define what that documented and manageable program can look like:
- Managers need to understand what you require of them in leading a WFH team and as a WFH Manager
- The team needs to know how to connect with their manager
- The team needs to know what is expected of them to complete their job duties while remote, such as measurable productivity requirements, reporting requirements, communication needs, data security, privacy, etc.
- What is expected for quality standards?
- What to do if a change is needed in vacation and time off request process
- What tools, technology and communication assets are approved (i.e. can they use their home computer or cellphone to attend meetings)? and if so, is there a reimbursement policy?
- How to report a data security issue or concern
- How to replace or request technology
- Communicating how the team can access and request internal supplies
- What work efforts must be conducted on-site or face to face due to the requirements of the position, task or interaction
- What is set aside for team interaction (i.e., team building, mentoring and coaching feedback and frequency, training, etc.)
- What will be required for time management, calendar updates, project management, email communication vs phone or video interaction, when to use instant messaging
- Having an agenda for key meetings and a dedicated note taker
- Expectations for camera on or off meetings
- Setting up an internal site for suggestions, comments, and feedback
- WFH travel reimbursement; and
- How do you transition back to a full on-site team or hybrid work process?
If you can add a FAQ (frequently asked questions) site to your internet on WFH items, the program, expectation, etc., that will help alleviate too many repetitive questions to management.
Remote work can become well-organized and sufficient when set expectations are communicated. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but we use IM when something is urgent.” And keeping an appropriate “eye” on communication among team members to support your goals surrounding sharing information as needed.
While there is no one silver bullet for perfect WFH programs, these “rules of engagement” shared with employees as soon as possible will help foster the program’s effectiveness. While some choices about specific expectations may be better than others, the most important factor is that all employees know what the expectations are.
As you can see, there are a lot of common expectations for WFH, but being flexible, having regular updates, documenting and communicating the plan, frequent team updates, face time and training are all practices that will help support your overall goals of a productive WFH program.