“Sorry, I need to step away…OK, I’m back. My daughter just cut her own hair.”
Yeah, that happened on a conference call, and we all had a good laugh. Well…except maybe the mother.
That said, how have you liked working from home? Ask that question to an array of people, and you will likely get a broad set of answers that range from “it was glorious bliss” to “these people I live with are driving me insane”.
Personally, I lean toward the bliss side of those two ends of the spectrum. I expected to have more distractions at home – especially with the kids home from school. To the contrary, I found that I was much more productive with greater ability to focus on what I needed to get done.
While experiences may differ, many have shared the same positive sentiments with me. Some have missed the office comradery, but no one has missed the daily commute!
Here’s the kicker though: Traditional companies that would never have considered a widespread remote workforce have now been forced into the model – and they see that it can work well. Many of those companies have experienced benefits and are now exploring making this model permanent in some form.
The motives can include addressing challenges of social distancing within existing office space, improving employee satisfaction and productivity, and/or realizing the potential cost savings of reducing their real estate footprint.
Several friends and clients have reached out and said that they were thinking that a work-from-home model is something worth exploring for their business, so I thought I’d share some things to consider if you or your company are doing a similar evaluation.
Traditional companies that would never have considered a widespread remote workforce have now been forced into the model – and they see that it can work well.
Organization and Operations
Communication Strategies – Determine the types of communications needed and the frequencies (e.g., team meetings, regular one-on-ones, company-wide meetings, social hours). Frequencies can be determined by elements such as content and team size.
Accountability – Establish expectations early to ensure teams understand schedules, objectives, communication methods, and times of completion. Avoid micromanaging by scheduling meetings appropriately.
Performance Management – Productivity can be measured against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that should be established. Document responsibilities and goals based on project assignments, job descriptions, and company objectives. Ensure that career progression does not differ for on-site versus remote employees.
Culture – The culture should be defined by documented core values and expected behaviors. Hold people accountable to those behaviors regardless of where they work. Put people first and prioritize relationships. Encourage creating “work vs. personal” boundaries.
Schedules – Work schedules can vary according to what the company objectives are for remote work. For example, if the objective is to reduce on-campus capacity by 50%, then rotating schedules may be appropriate. Create incentives for managers to meet objectives, and let them determine what is best for their teams.
Technology and Business Readiness
Scalability and Redundancy – Many companies have probably been forced to address remote work scale by increasing internet bandwidth and VPN licensing. Ensure that connectivity is redundant and that redundant circuits can also handle the necessary amount of traffic. Circuits are cheap when compared to the cost of lost productivity due to outages.
Security – Proprietary company information should be accessed from company-owned devices or restricted to containers on personal devices managed by company-controlled Mobile Device Management software. Utilize cloud storage instead of local storage to reduce the risk of device backup failures. Continue all standard network monitoring practices.
Business Readiness – Evaluate and adjust business processes as necessary. Digitize paper documents, automate workflows, etc. If you have contact center agents who are now remote but still take customer payments, ensure that you are still PCI compliant.
Tools – Standardize on collaboration tools. There are many tools for meetings such as Zoom, Skype, Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc. Pick a platform and stick with it. If you’re not on Office 365 which contains good collaboration capabilities, that might be a good set of tools to evaluate now.
Home Office – Develop at-home cybersecurity standards and training for all employees, and require employees to take the training prior to starting a permanent work-from-home arrangement. Complete a remote or in-person home safety survey leveraging photos and videos for use in worker’s compensation cases.
Statistics are readily available online that can help in the decision-making process, including this one and this one. They address things like productivity, job satisfaction, employee retention, etc. Most statistics generally point to positive elements of working remotely, though it should be noted that much of the research was done prior to COVID-19. Be sure to also evaluate legal and regulatory elements such as Workers’ Compensation or FLSA impacts.
Hopefully, this information will help folks on their journey to decide if implementing a remote work model in some form is the right answer for companies and employees moving forward. Actual implementation of this level of change will bring plenty of challenges. However, this 2020 impromptu pilot may prove useful in the long run – and don’t worry, your child’s hair will grow back.
Make sure to download the PDF included below for additional work-from-home evaluation points.