Working from home is a growing trend. In July of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 24% of employees did some or all of their work from home in 2015. While telecommuting isn’t always an option, many employees, especially millennials, are demanding that some of their work be done from their homes. With modern technology it’s often unnecessary to deal the stresses of going to an office, such as traffic and the pressure of having your manager’s constant oversight. Many people perform better when they are self-motivated and can relax in their home environment.
However, if your office is a hybrid of people who must come to the office and people who don’t, those who do have to come in every day may start to feel jealous and somewhat suspicious of the telecommuting employees. But this is often a result of being disconnected and a lack of trusting relationships in the office. Just as you would want your in-office employees to trust each other, it’s important to build that trust with your work-from-home employees.
Look inward. Question your own nature. Do you trust your employees? If you don’t feel that anyone is trustworthy, you might have some work to do on your own habits and thoughts. Most people want to work hard and be useful.
Examine your mental model. When someone is at his or her desk, you may just think they are working and giving you the full eight or nine hours of production that they appear to be giving. When they are working from home, do you imagine they are mostly not working? Do you feel you should give these employees more work and expect more from them? That’s not really fair and won’t hold up for long. Have weekly meetings to assess their projects, their goals and get their buy-in. Once they agree to their work load, let them do it at their own pace, as long as they meet their deadlines. Some will go faster, and some will struggle to get their projects done in time. In this case you should re-evaluate whether telecommuting is working for them.
Talk on the phone. If your telecommuting employees are 100% work from home, personal contact should be made over the phone as much as possible. Hearing someone’s voice and knowing they are available to talk at any point during the work day inspires that relationship of trust. If they are willing to come in and meet once a week or a few times a month, that’s even better for touching bases.
Document Projects. Using project tracking software, such as Trello or Asana, can help you to track your telecommuter’s progress with a light touch. They can see their work, they can manage their tasks, and you can see when they are falling behind. Tracking their actual hours is not recommended, because some people work faster than others and penalizing someone for working faster and smarter isn’t advisable. Let them determine if they can take on more if they get projects done quickly.
Counsel your telecommuting employees with these important points in order to foster a trusting relationship between all your employees.
Be transparent. Let people see what you are doing, talk about your projects and your difficulties and successes.
Be predictable. If there is an expectation that you are available during the standard working hours of your office, be available. Many offices are now using the Slack app, which allows you to form teams and channels and encourages rapid written communication. Respond quickly to your Slack messages, answer your phone, respond to text messages and emails.
Do what you say you’re going to do. Always finish your projects on time, when possible. Meeting deadlines and producing quality work is a great way for your co-workers to feel you are shouldering your portion of the burden.
Be competent. This may go without saying but the more capable a worker is, the better they will work out as a remote employee. If you can’t get things done on your own or you take a long time to complete projects, working from home may not be for you.
Be consistent in the timing of your responses. It’s best to be available and ready to respond quickly during working hours, but if that’s not possible, make sure you are consistent. If you take two days to respond sometimes, but minutes others, people may begin to think that you are not working sometimes.
Volunteer to take on new projects. By volunteering for tasks, you’re showing people that you can get things done. This is what they want to know, that you’re working. Taking jobs as they come up, if you have the time, is proof that you’re working and willing to work.
Make collaboration easy. Remote coworkers need to discuss projects and ideas too. Getting on a chat program, using screen sharing software, online note taking collaboration tools, and so many other tools that are available these days are essential to make remote work a success.
As you balance your work force, remember that trust is always the most important tool you have. With working remotely and with many other issues, transparency and trust are the keys to success.