How to make work-from-home work for your biz

By September 9, 2016Management & HR
Management & HR work-from-home

Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, technology has or will likely empower your employees to ask for remote working privileges. WorldatWork found that many employers find it difficult to get their work-from-home (WFH) policies right, and that makes sense given how many things a manager must take into consideration before approving a request.

For starters, employers often wonder how to make remote working privileges fair to all employees – which is a great place to start. And in order to tackle that, you have to know how you’re measuring performance.

At a small business especially, people are often taking on multiple responsibilities, which can make things a bit trickier.

Here are five steps to help you figure out how to make WFH options work for your business.

Let go. If you’re under the impression that you need to be in the same physical space as someone in order to ensure work is getting done productively, you’re simply under the wrong impression. There are tons of people who come to their jobs every day and manage to get everything done while surfing the internet for hours on end – and you wouldn’t even know it. Let go of the idea that you need to be in the same physical space as your employees, and simply make it known if you’d like employees to be present or call-in for meetings. The more you let go, the more you’ll know what your people are capable of.

Create evaluation criteria. Evaluating whether employees will thrive while working remotely (which we get into next), requires a little bit of extra work. You’ll need to create a standard criterion to help you come up with benchmarks that legitimize the approval of a work-from-home request. Employees should be made aware of what they’re being evaluated on, and there should be acknowledgment that remote working privileges are purely based on performance and their role (are they handling a lot of confidential information, etc.) Be transparent when a remote work request is denied. If people know there’s room for improvement that will get them certain perks, why not let them work for it?

Assess employees. Not everyone is going to be eligible to work from home, and that’s okay. Some people have proven themselves better off with more structure, in an office setting, or with leadership nearby. Many people also thrive on in-person communication and detailed direction, and that’s okay, but can require them to be onsite more than others. Assess whether an employee’s past performance and the nature of their role lines up with what’s required to successfully complete their tasks remotely, and measure against the criteria you’ve built.

Pick the right arrangement. There are a few different variations on how remote work can go. Here are 3 popular ones, and it’s a good idea to see which may the right fit for certain employees or departments as a whole.

  1. Alternative work schedules. This type of arrangement functions as a sort of meeting-in-the-middle agreement where an employee can take their regular work week and fit it into hours that aren’t necessarily standard. For example, working from 8-4 instead of 9-5, or working four ten hour days instead of five eight hour days. As long as the work’s getting done, those extra free hours work as a great reward.
  2. Flextime. This arrangement doesn’t always offer a remote working experience, but it does provide value when it comes to empowering an employee to structure their day in a way that suits them best. You can give employees the option to choose a shift from 7am to 4pm, but require that they be onsite during the busiest hours. This can help balance personal schedules and commutes.
  3. Flexspace. Flexspace can present itself as a total work-from-home setup or designating a specific space that isn’t the official office, as “the office.” This can be a great option for people who love their jobs but unfortunately must endure a two-hour commute every day to get to it. Flexspace doesn’t necessarily mean further away from the office; it can give employees the opportunity to choose a space from that is more accommodating for meetings and their commute.

Make it official. Formalizing an agreement is something a lot of businesses don’t do, simply because it takes time, paperwork, approvals, and signatures. But, it may be in your best interest to formalize an agreement that sums up the details of a remote work policy. If the basic conditions are laid down, there’s a foundation that employees can reference when they have questions, which makes it a lot easier for leadership to follow-up on when there’s questions. Consider things like setting a number of required hours, defining the expectations of work, and anything that could be an amendment to your agreement, like meetings. You should also include the less fun stuff like, what could interrupt remote working privileges or security expectations.

The more detail included in the agreement ahead of time the better as it reduces the opportunity for miscommunication or ambiguity. Agreements should include review periods, mandatory hours of availability, and any other terms that could cause the agreement to be terminated.

Successful businesses know, it’s all about the work, and save for a few instances that require in-person attendance, where it’s getting done shouldn’t be a major issue. So, if you’re looking to embark on implementing remote work standards, follow these five steps and always remember that performance-based policies will work best for your business, regardless of its size.

See also:
How to improve your staff’s work-life balance
How you’re demoralizing your workers (without even knowing it)

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