As the COVID-19 pandemic looks to continue through the end of 2020, I felt now is a salient time to discuss the elephant in the room that business owners around the globe are having to acknowledge: Working from home.
While employees view the practice favorably, upper management and business owners have traditionally balked, citing concerns about productivity and focus.
In fact, when I was working at my corporate job (I don’t want to tell you when as it ages me), I distinctly remember management’s POV toward working from home and it boiled down to one word: distrust. This was startling for a few reasons. First, the fact that they didn’t trust their employees (the people who built the company to the juggernaut) simply because they’re at home instead of the office. Second, if you don’t trust your employees, why are you paying them and entrusting them to guide the company to success and growth?
I felt this was antithetical to how a good organization should operate. Trust, both between colleagues and between management and employees, is one of (if not the most) important attributes of a good organization.
Creating an atmosphere of trust both in the office and when working from home is not difficult to achieve. It does however need to be built into the foundation of an organization. That foundation is based on the most important components of a business:
If you can establish these components and have employees buy-in, the only difference between working from home and working in the office will be the type of pants your staff wears.
As I mentioned, core values are foundational to any organisation, let's start here.. I’ll use ROI Swift’s core values as an example:
These core values create an atmosphere where employees understand the company's expectations. In the example above, WFH should not be an issue if the employees care about what they do. A methodical hiring process can go a long way in evaluating if the candidate will be the “right person in the right seat.”
Beyond the core values, tools are the second most important component to ensuring productive stretch of working from home. As I’m not a project manager by trade, I’ll spare you with a deep-dive into the pro’s and con’s of various platforms. Instead, let’s focus on how to create a system with built in transparency and accountability.
One of my biggest pet peeves is micromanagement. I don’t like it, my executive team doesn’t like it, and I know my employees feel the same. That is why I like tools such as Slack, Teams, and other messaging tools that allow for quick communication across clients and job functions. These tools not only provide visibility into the daily heartbeat communications and minimize the number of times I had to "jump in", they also strengthen my confidence in the team’s performance.
Lastly, PM platforms are the most simple and effective way to ensure transparency and accountability throughout your organization. I don’t need to virtually “swoop” by an employee’s desk to check on a task. All I need to do is check the PM platform to determine if we are on track to meeting our deadlines and goals.
Between PM and messaging, transparency itself creates the environment where holding employees accountable is seen as “just the company culture” rather than conjuring up images of a micromanaging and overbearing management team.
There is no silver bullet for ensuring your team will succeed in this brave new world of extended work-from-home. However, there are simple ways to structure your organization to be empowered, productive, and just as efficient as working from the office. If you have the right values, right tools, and the right people in the right seat, you should stop worrying about working from home.