How to manage working from home

For years working from home has seemed ideal, staff have saved time and money on laborious commutes, benefited from a better quality of life, and those with children have had the opportunity to fit in the school run to their working day. However some companies are stopping working from home practises to create highly engaged employees. So what is the ideal solution?

Last year it was widely reported that Yahoo employees had to halt working from home and make their way to offices in a city nearby. The CEO gave no exceptions not even to employees whom worked remotely a couple of days a week. It may seem strange that this view has been taken by what many would view as a forward thinking technologically-savvy organisation. Thanks to wifi, laptops, tablets, smartphones, webcams etc it has become possible to do business with anyone anywhere in the world at the touch of a button. But more and more high tech businesses are encouraging their employees to get on the bus and work in the office. Why?

The answer is simple. We’re all human and not machines. We’re social beings that like to interact, and whilst we’re happy enough checking our Facebook and Twitter in our lunchtimes, the majority of us are not keen on spending all day on our own in a back bedroom with a computer as company. Google actively encourage – but don’t make it mandatory – employees come into the workplace on a daily basis. They provide a Google wifi bus to enable employees to stay connected, free fruit, meals and inspiring workplaces to ensure staff want to commute each day. In hi-tech companies there’s a common view that staff feel more inspired if they’re part of the office environment, it’s easier to communicate, and generate fresh ideas by working in a group face-to-face, and of course the more engaged an employee is with their company the more productivity and profitability that organisation will enjoy.

So, there’s quite a compelling argument for employees to get to the office wherever possible. So is the long term future of home working in jeopardy? It would seem ideal for employees of companies who spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on creating inspiring workplaces to, wherever possible, make the most of the office environment. But not all companies do or strive to offer such workplace environments. Many companies are not as fast paced or reliant upon an entrepreneurial nature with fresh idea generation as Yahoo! and Google. CEOs of ‘everyday’ companies, such as accountancy and legal practices, marketing consultancies etc, need to decide whether their organisation will benefit from home workers. Individual managers also need to realise which roles will be able to function effectively, and which staff will be able to fulfil their duties to their best ability in a home or office environment.

Many remote workers may undertake more ‘process driven’ tasks that can be undertaken just as well at home as they can in an office. And of course there is a very strong argument that an employee may feel a lot more enthused turning on their computer at 9am rather than catching a train at 7am to report to the office for 9am. Of course these workers too need to be managed and given as much, if not more, support and communication with the company than those in the traditional workplace.

Managers need to ensure remote workers have information and access to good IT; they need to make use of online collaboration tools and flash meetings to aid the flow of communication, and to ensure staff are reaching their targets. Managers also need to fully support their team members and trust them to go about their day-to-day roles – and not make them feel that they are being checked-up on otherwise levels of staff morale will fall dramatically.

It must also not be forgotten that home working provides a real opportunity for many people to continue their career throughout crucial life stages. New parents often have to return to work and many would be much happier in their roles if they could work from home or leave the office earlier in the day and fulfil extra working hours at home. The increased age of retirement may also see a lot of us requesting remote benefits way into our 60s and 70s, again much more beneficial than spending time and effort travelling to and from the office.

Thanks to technology flexible working in many industry sectors is here to stay and will be a great help for many. The key to success is for managers to support remote staff fully and to thoroughly understand their needs and ensure each employee is fully aware of what is expected of them.

TOP TIPS: How to get home working right?
• Remote workers need access to good IT.
• Managers to manage them differently and make use of online collaboration tools and flash meetings.
• Be realistic about what roles can be performed remotely.
• Understand which members of staff can and can’t work effectively at home.
• Be flexible and offer a mix of remote and office bound working practises.
• Be careful how you communicate your policies – a misunderstanding can really damage working relations.

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