How to make working from home work for you and your business
In December 2019, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released data showing that around 1 in 3 workers, that’s over 3.5 million employed Australians, are regularly working from home. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the proportion of Australians now choosing to or being required to work from home will no doubt increase.
So, what makes “working from home” work for employers and employees?
- Trust and transparency
- Open channels of communication
- A proper work routine and office set up
Trust and transparency when working from home
Working from home has many benefits. You don’t waste time travelling to work and are able to work in a comfortable environment free of office distractions.
However, the comforts of home, or perhaps the demands of home, can nevertheless take up considerable time. While it may seem like you’re only spending 15 minutes hanging out the washing, multiply that by the other domestic tasks or distractions that feature at home (e.g. pets, kids, Netflix!), and you’re bound to eat into your work hours. In light of this, the use of time tracking tools such as Harvest (www.getharvest.com) are invaluable. They help employees avoid hours disappearing into the ether via distractions or procrastination, and allow employers to keep track of employee efficiency and how a project is progressing.
The employer should set clear expectations of their employees but should also give staff flexibility and the benefit of the doubt unless they have a legitimate reason not to. Remember, even within an office environment, staff will generally spend time chatting to co-workers, getting coffee, using the bathroom etc, etc. Maintaining good rapport is sometimes trickier when the interaction isn’t face-to-face, so it is important that employers don’t nit-pick over minor discrepancies, as in our experience diss-trust breeds diss-honesty.
Open channels of communication when working from home
Just as you would in a traditional face-to-face office, it is also useful to establish a regular time to catch up. This may be 15 minutes at the beginning of the day and 15 minutes at the end over the phone, videoconference, or messaging.
It also helps to enable to have real-time communication as you’re working. Much like you’re able to in an office,
“Hey Mikey, what was the name of that thing we worked on yesterday?”
We use Slack (www.slack.com) to enable real-time open channels of communication about projects without blocking up our email. It allows for informal, short, sharp communication within each project.
A proper work routine and office set up when working from home
We’ve found that, far from slacking off, employees who work from home are often more productive than when they’re in the office. In fact, people who work from home, in particular those who are self-employed or part-time workers, are likely to complete extra hours of essentially unpaid work.
It is therefore important to ensure a home office set up is ergonomic and that your daily routine is established in a way that prevents burnout or other negative psychological impacts as well as possible.
Whereas the ergonomic aspects of a home office (e.g. table, chair, mouse and keyboard placement) only need to be set up once, maintaining good mental health is an ongoing consideration. Workers who work from home are vulnerable to feelings of isolation or disconnection, particularly if they are extraverts.
Further, working from home can lead to poorly defined boundaries within the home, leading to conflict with partners or children.
Workers should create a timetable for exercise, breaks and family time. Everybody in the home needs to know the schedule and understand its boundaries. It also helps if the worker can share their timetable with their employer.
We think working from home can have some great benefits for the employer and employee
It may not be your first choice, but it does have some great benefits when managed correctly. It can lead to happier more productive staff and create a more cost-effective business. It’s important to remember if you want to drive great customer experiences you also need to provide great staff experience, as happy staff leads directly to happy customers. Obviously, working from home will also reduce the chance of catching and spreading viruses such as COVID19.