Working From Home: How to Make It REALLY Work

Photo credit: iStockphoto/simonapilolla

The outbreak of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the way we work. Arguably the largest “work from home” experiment in human history is well underway. As the situation unfolds, work from home is no longer a privilege, it’s a necessity.

Over the last weeks there has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Not only was the outbreak declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization (WHO), it has unfortunately taken the lives of over two thousand and five hundred and substantially disrupted air travel with significant restrictions having been put in place. 

As working from home and telecommunicating become commonplace, it is important to know how to make it really work. When your employees work at home, often will be more productive if their morale is up. What steps can an organization take to improve employees’ morale while working remotely? 

Set reasonable expectations

With a comprehensive productivity plan, you can ensure that your remote employees are contributing valuably. While you’re no longer in control of a worker’s every minute, assigning projects with deadlines will keep you in charge of what really matters: results.

Alleviating employees of painful administrative tasks like tracking time worked or manual expense reporting by implementing automated solutions can give back much-needed time for creativity. There are software that offer employees the technological tools and freedom to be productive offsite, maintaining the flexibility conducive to working comfortably. 

For many people, being in a comfortable environment with less structure can be creatively stimulating. As employees begin to create their own work rhythm, you’ll be able to gauge how many projects they can take on, and increase the amount when appropriate. A goal-oriented approach allows workers to motivate and regulate themselves, helping them become more responsible, and more productive.

Make communication a priority  

Important conversations don’t just have to happen in the pantry anymore. In fact, they can also occur on a collaborative messaging platform or during a videoconference. 

Although these methods take more planning than bumping into someone face-to-face, the payoff can be even more rewarding. Not only will people have a chance to think before they speak, they'll also have a record of conversations for reference as they move forward. And keeping at-home employees in the loop helps them feel valuable, included, and invested in the wellbeing of your organization.

Workers who are on the clock have a responsibility to their employer to discuss ongoing and future projects while they are in the office. In the same way, remote employees need to make time to be available to their employer. Whether you have a set number of hours during the day, or an on-call policy, let your employees know how and when you plan on communicating with them.

Schedule regular check-ins

Even with clear expectations and good communication, the best plans can go awry. Scheduling regular check-ins lets you go over your current plan to see what’s working - and what can be improved. You’ll see the big picture view of what projects your employees are working on, which ones they’ve finished, and what’s on the horizon. When everyone is on the same page, it’s easy to stay on track. 

Check-ins also give employers the opportunity to see if everyone is working at capacity. You can’t watch your people every moment of the day—nor would you want to—but their output speaks for itself. Look to see if deadlines are being consistently met, and if the quality of work being produced is getting steadily better.

Remote or not? That is the question.

As technology provides more tools for workers in remote locations, the thorny issues of local versus off-site employees begin to solve themselves. With the right software, any employees who are affected by events like natural disasters or terrorist attacks occurring anywhere in the world would receive automatic notifications. 

You can also proactively communicate with one, some or all employees via voice, email, text through apps, and confirm your messages were received and read. You can also send to your employees rapid global security information and appropriate medical, security and travel assistance as required.

And remember—you don’t have to choose one or the other. The right software should offer you the flexibility – where workers come in from time to time but still work remotely on certain days. Wherever you land on the issue, make sure you communicate expectations clearly and often, so that everyone knows how to deliver their very best.

Fabian Padilla Crisol, managing director at SAP Hong Kong, wrote this article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of HR&DigitalTrends. Photo credit: iStockphoto/simonapilolla