Since the onset of the current crisis, the question of working from home has gone from being a niche concept with the potential to change the future of business, to many people’s only option. Businesses – who may have been considering letting a portion of their workers make the choice to telecommute – are just now getting to grips with the idea that everyone has to do it.
For a boss, this is a tricky time. It’s natural to have misgivings about changing the way that you do things, but right now there is no choice; we’re all part of a forced experiment with telecommuting. We’re all going to see whether it works together. Granted, it’s not the perfect experiment; many of those pushing the idea of a work-from-home revolution would point out that they didn’t expect it to come during a global crisis. Nonetheless, we’re here now, so how do you, as a boss, manage your newly-remote workforce?
Be available, but don’t be ever-present
The single greatest fear regarding working from home has been that it would lead to a reduction in worker productivity. If anything, the opposite seems to be the case. There are plenty of theories as to why this should be so, but nothing concrete just yet. As a boss, however, it should allow you to feel more confident about your workforce delivering even when you’re not physically there. During working hours, you should be available – some workers may need additional guidance in this alien scenario – but don’t breathe down your employees’ virtual necks; time-logging software and individual honesty have things covered.
Acronym Tip: ‘WFH’ is a shortened version of ‘Working From Home’
Let technology do the work for you
The truth of the matter when it comes to employee oversight is that, for some time now, businesses have not needed to be located in one fixed physical position. Technology has allowed more efficient monitoring of when and how work is getting done, and this is something you can embrace with a remote workforce. Using efficient performance management software you can be confident of staying on top of the key indicators, and arrange one-to-ones with employees just as easily as if they were in the same office as you.
Recognise that these are unforeseen circumstances
Perhaps the most important thing that any manager can do right now is to adjust their expectations for what is normal. The quickest and simplest answer to that question is “not this”. We are living through a time that few of us thought we would see, and there isn’t a “correct” way to deal with it, because how do you write the book for something like this? As a boss, be there for your employees, find ways that their skills can best be marshalled in the circumstances, and try to keep everyone together using chat software like Slack. Use every ounce of government assistance you need to keep your business ticking over, and come out the other side (whenever that may be) in the best shape possible.
It’s hard to know how to handle a remote workforce when the situation is forced upon us all – but keeping the above in mind will be helpful as we try.