Most people think it’s easy for employees to work from home, but the reality is otherwise. In today’s post we’ll look at seven questions every organization should ask itself before sending its staff home to work.
A BATHROBE AND A POT OF COFFEE
A common myth about working at home is that all it takes to do it properly is a bathrobe and a pot of coffee. In fact, working at home is very challenging for most organizations and most people.
In the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the topic of working from home has started trending big-time. Many organizations are turning to work-from-home solutions to obtain the social distancing recommended by the public health authorities.
The issue of working remotely is one we at BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting have been involved with for a long time since the ability to do so is a key part of many organizations’ business continuity plans.
A THREAT TO PRODUCTIVITY AND COHESION
One thing we have learned over the years is, the home environment is not always conducive to productivity. Most companies that are obliged to implement a work-from-home plan will see a fall-off in productivity and also organizational cohesion, especially if the period of working at home is longer than two weeks.
We’ve also learned that there are two keys to succeeding with a work-from-home solution: preparing ahead of time (for both the organization and the individual employees) and active, supportive management as the work from home period goes on.
Is your organization in the process of adopting a crash work-from-home solution in response to the coronavirus crisis?
7 QUESTIONS TO ANSWER BEFORE SENDING THE STAFF HOME TO WORK
Here are seven questions every organization should ask itself as it prepares to have a significant portion of its workforce work from home:
- Can your technology support having employees work from home? Many companies assume the answer to this question is yes without bothering to look into the details. The details are where many work-at-home plans run aground. Assess what your people would need to work at home in terms of hardware, software, bandwidth, and so on. Then find out what is truly available to them. Depending on the answers, you might need to close the gap in technology or change your plans. For help with the technical demands of having staff work remotely, see our “Remote Work Technical Checklist.”
- Do you have clear policies about the do’s and don’ts of working from home? These are the rules of the road your employees are expected to follow while working away from the office. The time to set them up is before you need them. I can’t tell you how many times in the past clients have laughed at us for harping on this. Now, some of those same folks are floundering as they send people home to work with no policies in place to govern their conduct. Policies should address such matters as when people need to work, breaks, information security, expectations regarding a quiet atmosphere, and provisions to let them look after elderly or sick people or children who are in their care.
- Are your people prepared to work from home? Do your home-bound employees have a comfortable, efficient work area? Is it sufficiently quiet? Are they free to concentrate? Is the organization’s confidential work information secure in their home? Can they talk freely on the phone and participate in remote meetings? Are they emotionally prepared to work at home? When a company sends someone home to work, they have no idea what it looks like or who will be there. For best results, think about these issues ahead of time.
- Do your employees want remote work? Some people love the idea of working at home. They are well set up for it and can do it productively and happily. Other people hate it. They aren’t well organized for it and/or they like coming into the office. They might enjoy the buzz, the structure, and the sense of being where the action is. “If I don’t see someone, I’m going to die,” is a line I’ve heard more than once from an extravert required to work at home. Some people hate being away from the mother ship. Before you send people home to work, it helps to know their attitude toward doing so.
- Will stress on home networks slow down work efforts? This is a big one. Don’t assume that technology solutions that work flawlessly on your superfast corporate network will perform the same way over someone’s home connection. Some of your people are liable to have unreliable/slow home networks. This can mean problems with VPNs, logging in, transferring files, and video conferencing. I’ve seen cases where, when people work at home, it takes five minutes for something to happen when they hit Enter. Don’t be surprised if, when people are sent home to work, some of them experience network-related performance degradations.
- How long can your people work from home before losing organizational effectiveness? This is something you’ll have to figure out. In my experience, the answer is about two weeks, but your mileage may vary. Some people will thrive working at home and others will fall apart. Some people start to get lax about security and everything else. This can be countered to some extent by managers’ staying in touch with their staffs. Asking people how they are doing, giving encouragement, and seeking updates can help workers stay engaged.
- What are you going to do about business units that can’t work from home? These units tend to get overlooked in discussions on working remotely. For many units, working from home is an impossibility. In a situation like the current crisis with coronavirus, the organization needs to think about how they can protect and support those workers. This might include such steps as disinfecting their work areas more often and implementing measures to obtain social distancing.
REMOTE WORK TECHNICAL CHECKLIST
As mentioned above, BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting have prepared a “Remote Work Technical Checklist” to help organizations figure out what they need to do to successfully manage the technology aspects of a work-from-home solution. The checklist provides guidance on such topics as remote enterprise access, end-user devices, and web-conferencing and collaboration tools.
MAKING IT WORK
During the current crisis with coronavirus, many organizations are turning to work-from-home solutions to obtain the social distancing recommended by the public health authorities.
Implementing such a solution successfully requires advance planning in terms of technology, policies, and the home work environment. Supportive ongoing management can help in maintaining productivity and organizational cohesion. Despite the challenges, it is possible to make working from home work.
For more information on sending your staff home to work, remote work solutions and other hot topics in BC and IT/disaster recovery, check out these recent posts from BCMMETRICS and MHA Consulting:
- Ready or Not, Here It Comes: 5 Steps to Protecting Your Company Against Coronavirus
- How Working from Home During an Emergency Is Different
- Helping Your Employees Stay Safe When Using Non-Company Wi-Fi Networks
- 1 Program, 6 Plans: The Half Dozen Plans Every BCM Program Should Have