At first, working from home can sound like a dream. You can skip the commute, work in pajamas and take a break whenever you want to. In reality, though, working from home requires a lot of motivation and discipline, and some remote workers struggle with the lack of separation between work and life. Add in a spouse who’s also working from home, children who need all-day-long entertainment, or even a comfy bed that you’re eyeing from your work desk — suddenly working from home isn’t as easy and breezy as it once seemed. When it’s necessary to transition your employees from traditional to remote work, though, what can you do to make the process smoother? Let’s dive in.
Give Them the Tools They Need
Unless your employees have already been working from home part-time, they’re probably not going to have the type of setup required to successfully do their jobs. You may have to provide laptops and WiFi-related tech to get them up and running. Although you won’t have to buy them all office furniture, you can point them to helpful guides for setting up a home office or discount codes, so they can get what they need at a budget price. Also, make sure they all have access to the platforms, databases, and files they need — but without giving them access to items they shouldn’t be able to get into.
Be More Available Than Normal
In the office, always being present can feel like you’re micromanaging. When your remote workers are only reachable online, though, your presence has to be felt more than before. First, you want your employees to know that you’re accessible to them if they have questions or concerns. Second, you don’t want to give the impression that remote work time is also the time to slack off. Goals still need to be reached even if you can’t be face-to-face with your team. Be available for your employees in their time zones (whenever possible), and have a few different modes of communication options, like email, live video calls, and Slack. Reach out to them regularly, and encourage them to reach out to you, too.
Show Them You Trust Them
Even if you maintain a regular presence, you can’t keep as close an eye on your team and their jobs as you normally would. This is the perfect time to show your employees how much you trust them. Give them more autonomy than they had before by allowing them to make more advanced decisions — and without asking for permission or approval. Ask them if they have any thoughts on how processes or tasks could be improved, too. Hopefully, you hired people you could depend on from the start. Now it’s time to exercise that trust more than ever.
Stick to a Routine
Switching to remote work can knock everyone off their normal routines, which can make life feel like it’s gone haywire. Try to keep a similar routine to the one you had in the office, and as time goes on, adapt it to create a new routine that’s even more appropriate for remote work. For example, if you always held an in-person meeting on Monday mornings, continue doing that with video calls. Eventually, you may move that meeting to Monday afternoon to account for childcare responsibilities or time zone differences. If everyone knocked off early on Friday afternoons for 4 p.m. Happy Hour, hold a virtual one every week. Encourage your employees to continue to check-in regarding breaks, too: Working from home isn’t a free-for-all to take off work any time they want. Structuring everyone’s workdays will help keep both productivity and motivation high.
Set Clear Deliverables
In an office setting, deadlines may be a little loose because there’s more communication between team members. It’s clear how a project is moving along and if it’s on track. When everyone’s remote, it’s tough to know how far along each person is on their part of a project, though. This is when digital project management tools, like Asana or another kanban board platform, come in handy. You can create projects and subtasks, assign responsibilities to team members and set deadlines to keep everything chugging along. Overall, employees should be aware of what is expected of them and when it’s expected, and they should also know you’ll follow-up with them if something isn’t delivered on time.
Team-building exercises take on a different form when you’re not in a room together, but they’re still just as important — if not more important — to do when everyone is siloed. Send out fun or thought-provoking questionnaires (and share answers with everyone on the team), spotlight employees for a job well done, and play virtual games when the workload eases up. Also, lead by example and strike up casual conversations, like about last night’s baseball game or your weekend plans, similar to what you’d do at the coffee machine mid-workday.
Proactively Address the WFH Experience
Your employees aren’t the only ones adjusting to remote work — you are, too. Any struggles you’re facing, like finding a dependable internet provider, focusing with toddlers in the background, or waking up early enough to feel pulled-together in time for work is probably something some of your employees are dealing with, too. Be open about your experiences and share the solutions you’ve found. Everyone’s in this together, and knowing that someone else is having the same struggles — and that they’ve found ways to deal with them — is encouraging.
Even if your employees eventually return to traditional in-office work, getting them set up to work from home is invaluable. If there’s ever a reason to have them work remotely in the future, everyone will already know how to make the transition fast. Plus, employees may appreciate the office even more after seeing how challenging it can be to work in a house where chores and pets are always beckoning.
Brian Meert, CEO of AdvertiseMint (https://www.advertisemint.com), a Facebook Advertising Agency, Author of The Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising (https://amzn.to/38oMA9D) and Host to Duke of Digital Podcast (https://www.dukeofdigital.com).