Manage staff working from home

Manage staff working from home

May 1, 2020

It’s become the new normal up and down the land. Offices have been vacated leaving staff to work at home. It may not be ideal, but we’ve had to make it work.

In our case, there was work to be done.

So how do you manage people working from home.

Firstly you can’t worry about what you can’t control. You won’t see your staff working. Trust your people to get on with the work required of them. Focus on output not input is something we have said to managers of field based engineers for years. You ca see what work has been produced at the end of the day, don’t sweat whether it was completed at 9 am. or 9 p.m.

In our case we sent everyone home with what they needed and a Home Working Policy written especially for the Coronavirus Pandemic.  This set out how things would work and the boundaries.

These questions are useful to ask your people each day:

  1. What have you done?
  2. What are you working on?
  3. Where do yo need help?
  4. When shall we next check in?

In our team we have daily video meetings at 9 a.m. on Microsoft Teams (like Zoom without the risk that the rest of the world will be trying to access their servers at the same time!).

We have found this to work really well. I can ask everyone, in turn, what they are going to be working on today.

What would make this better? A CRM. We are looking at which is software which manages the workflow. We also may have a solution from our web developers. Exciting times.

Our people have a sense of automony. They can’t control the volume of support asked of us, but they can control when the work is done. This creates a sense of automony and control. I have found our people are productive as they work at their own pace, where they want, when they want (within reason). If someone takes a break to go for a walk to dodge the shower, its for them to decide not me. I trust they will get what needs done, done.

Communication is a challenge when we are working from home. We have to be more conscious about it. For example we wanted to discuss our future plans. Normally we would have grabbed our seats and switched the phones to reception for 10, now we had to plan a video meeting a day in advance. I used it as an opportunity to be clear about what’s happening, and how everyone fits in.

In these uncertain times, I think this is very important. I want my people to know what I expect and I can only achieve this aim if I am clear as to what is happening and why.

Its also important to remember that we are social animals. Once you work from home you can feel disconnected and lonely. (Husband playing Duran Duran on repeat is also very irritating)

We all need to be mindful of distance bias and the risk that subgroups may form. We are too small a team for this, but I can see its potential. When I want to communicate officially, I do it to all.

We have found our Redwing What’s App Group to be the spreader of cheer. This has meant a constant flow of ‘meme’s and ‘funnies’ are shared on the group chat most days.  Its no different to what would normally happen at work. The general chit chat we all enjoy. Equally we could have opted for social lunches, coffee mornings or informal quiz nights. What’s App serves us well.

Finally, you may find working from home has worked for you and you want to continue to use it when the lockdown is lifted. We are certainly building this new normal into our future growth plans.

If you need any assistance with any aspect of HR or employment law please call us on 01527 306066


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