The current work from home (WFH) spike is due to COVID-19, but we suspect that after the crisis ends, more companies will adopt WFH policies. Why? Because companies are finding out that WFH policies can be beneficial for productivity in the right circumstances.
There are lots of different ways of working from home. Some businesses are entirely remote. Others just offer flexible time to their employees. Still others expect employees to work remotely at least part of the time and spend part in office. The one thing in common to all successful working from home schemes, though, is that there is a clear policy in place to provide everyone guidance.
Here are some things to consider for your first WFH policy.
IT is too frequently an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be. With IT threats like ransomware, spear phishing, and data harvesting on the rise, IT should be amongst the first involved in crafting a WFH policy. Will you need a corporate VPN? Is it okay for employees to do work from their personal devices? How will you ensure data is being shared without being compromised? There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so IT must be consulted for a tailor-made security solution.
There’s no getting around the fact that something is lost without day-to-day, face-to-face communication. What do we lose? Body language, intonation, and the creativity that comes when employees mingle.
That’s why it’s so important to invest in communication systems that provide a seamless user experience, whether they’re sharing data, chatting casually, or trying to organise a meeting where everyone is remote. That’s why we talk a lot about unified communication systems; they’re an important part of getting things done in as simple a way as possible.
One nice thing about working from home is you find out very quickly what meetings could have been phone calls or even better, emails. Meetings can be essential, but many are pointless. In fact, a great deal of science has been done on how to make meetings and conference calls more productive.
The first step is asking whether you even need one. When people are working from home, there are higher barriers to organizing a meeting, so most useless meetings become calls. The simple solution is to try solving the problem you’re having first without a meeting or call. If one is necessary, have a clear agenda, limit the guest list, ensure everyone present has a clear role, and enforce a strict time limit. For more, see Steven Rogelberg’s The Surprising Science of Meetings.
If employees are working from home, are they in effect paying for their own offices? Will they be responsible for their own computers, phones, data, productivity apps, paper, and other office supplies? It’s important to determine what the company pays for right away and make sure everyone is clear on the policy.
The most important thing about a WFH policy is how expectations are set. Not only do employees need to know what their deliverables are and what their timeline is, they also need to be clear on how supervisors will communicate, how soon they can expect a response to a query, what’s going on with the business in a larger sense, what short-term and long-term plans are, and how they fit into the bigger scheme of things. Again, there is no one-size-fits all approach. The point is, there needs to be a policy and that people can’t just be left to muddle through without direction.
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