Since the COVID pandemic, employees now expect that they will have at least part of their week working from home. I have spoken to multiple recruiters who have said that working from home, at least some of the time, is now a minimum expectation. Not offering this option could therefore make attracting the best staff difficult.
But what happens when you are not confident your employees are going to do the right thing and be as productive as they could be?
If someone is hardworking, trustworthy, and does the right thing at the office, they should in theory do the same thing at home. If you do not trust your employee, there are likely to be other issues that need to be addressed. Working from home will reflect underlying issues rather than cause them. Working from home may not be the key problem to be addressed.
Nevertheless, there are more distractions at home, and it is easy for anyone to get into bad habits. Here are some things you can do to keep your team productive whilst working from home:
This is the easiest way to manage performance, both in the office and outside of it. Some managers prefer to judge performance based on gut feel. But this is not going to work when working from home. You will see your employee even less so having measurable targets will be even more important.
Your team wants to know that you trust and care about them. The easiest way to do this is to have a transparent document that sets out clearly the expectations and goals.
Getting the balance right between too many meetings and too little is important. A weekly Zoom meeting works well. This gives you an opportunity to check everybody’s workloads and identify any pain points. Consistency is key. If things start to get out of control go back to the basics. If you need to build trust over time then perhaps ask your employee to email an update daily or every few days.
Whether from home or in the office, a Performance Review done well can work wonders for managing team performance and keeping the team engaged. People like to have goals and targets. I’ve coached a lot of employees and lack of clarity was one a common issue. Without ambitious goals, your team can become bored, de-motivated, or just overwhelmed.
You can have hundreds of processes, but this will never replace good communication. The book, The Speed of Trust by Steven Covey (2006), explains how trust can either speed up or slow down the progress of a company. Keeping trust levels high not only improves the speed of performance but also leads to higher employee retention and engagement.
If you are not used to giving your team a long leash, allowing them to work from home could feel like a huge step.
Unless your team has done something to mistrust them, it will be important to extend trust and start with choosing to trust in the first instance. If you really don’t trust the person then you may need to have some candid conversations with them first or put them onto a performance improvement plan.
One of the most common complaints from team members is that decisions are not fair and reasonable. A working-from-home policy should therefore be fair, reasonable and transparent.
I have often heard managers get stressed about their team popping out for a coffee or not being at their home desk when they expect them to be. Unless your team member is someone who is very unreliable, judging them too harshly and being inflexible could cause more problems than not. If they work hard and get results, this is what matters most.
The reality is that one of the major benefits of working from home is flexibility. This does not mean that people should take advantage. It just means there is no point sweating the small stuff. Instead, go back to the performance measures and measure your team’s performance based on those rather than the little things. You and your team will feel much happier about it. Trust will go up, and so will performance.
Jade Varley is a Certified Leadership and Business Coach and has been in business for 9 years. She coaches business owners and senior leaders to bring out their best so they can grow and manage their businesses and themselves.