Is the Home office here to stay? Yes, and we’ll tell you why.
+ The best pro tips for businesses willing to include work from home as an option after the Covid-19 experience
During the hardest moments of isolation, we’ve all been dreaming of a magical Post-Covid19 era.
Well, we hate to break it to you – but that’s not coming anytime soon. As it happens, the world is already adapting to the new rules of social distancing and companies are re-building their culture and processes accordingly. Business and social interactions as a whole are not “back to normal”.
But you know what? That’s actually ok.
We can adapt and we can learn from these hard times, so … let’s cease this chance to grow and improve our businesses together! We’ve already done a good amount to help you understand and cope with the situation (publishing market analysis, sector researches, starting new services in line with the changed media/corporate landscape). So today we want to share our experience and recommendations regarding the work-from-home enigma.
We’ve all been there: in a matter of days, entire teams were forced to go home and do their job from there, some lacking the right conditions, the right tools, some lacking motivation, some losing the connection with their co-workers, many feeling stressed and confused. And then suddenly, after all the complaining and internal panic – they started enjoying it! So much so that today, months after it all began, there’s an increasing number of people saying things like “I love having more time for myself – it would be great if I had the home office option even after the isolation!”, “See – we can work from home with the same efficiency – why can’t we do it more often?”, “I don’t want to go back to passing 2 hours per day in commute, especially since I know there’s another way – let me have my home office when I want to!”.
And managers all over the world have heard those voices, with company giants like Twitter, Facebook and Square announcing part of their employees will be allowed to work remotely forever. The subject was widely covered with many debating on the pros and cons, resulting in useful and revealing articles found in Forbes, The New York Times, The Guardian, just to name a few.
Ok, we get it – Home office is here to stay (in some form). So you must already be thinking of ways to use it in your company – as a time-limited option, bonus feature for certain employees or even a permanent on-demand alternative to the traditional office. In our company, we’ve had this option for long before Covid-19 and we’ve spent a fair amount of time perfecting it, so we’re here to share some DOs and DON’Ts that will certainly be a guiding light on your way to making “home office” a permanent part of your company’s universe.
Do set clear rules, applying to everyone willing to benefit from the Home office option
It doesn’t matter if it’s a manager, a junior collaborator or even an intern – everyone should follow a certain procedure. Ours includes notifying the entire team in advance if you plan to work from home. Also, mentioning if this would affect your regular time schedule (if you plan to start/end earlier). Even if you’re not physically at the office, you still need to answer urgent requests from your teammates and be available on all communication channels we traditionally use. At the end of the day you need to send a detailed timesheet with your activities. Of course, you can adapt these to fit your company procedures.
Do establish a method to follow-up on performance and productivity during home office
We already mentioned the daily timesheets, we create these in an already existing time & OKR management tools we use at the office (Zoho & GtmHub). Those add up to another useful platform for project tracking we utilize – Asana (you can also check Trello or Monday.com). We strongly advise you to set a separate system allowing you to track performance of team members who work from home for longer periods. The process should be easy and happen regularly – avoid actually requesting from people to list and describe their activities on random occasions, when you decide to check their work – this would create a climate of uncertainty and prompt lack of trust on both sides.
Do create a good system for communication between your team members on day-to-day basis
Communication is the key – trust us – we are a Communication Agency! So, before letting everyone enjoy their Home office, make sure you have more than just work emails to communicate. You need to have regular meetings to make sure everyone is onboard with plans and goals for the week (day/month/year). You also need to have a “chat space” for side comments and updates (you can use all kind of internal or traditional messenger systems). Finally, regular emails from the team manager, letting everyone now about the progress of different teams and projects are always useful. In addition to those, we have our “huddle”, where everyone shares their daily priority, a weekly catch-up meeting for each small team and a regular project leaders’ meet-up. Just because you’re not in the office, doesn’t mean people can miss such meetings. What’s more – establishing a clear meeting schedule will avoid unnecessary calls and spam emails.
Do make sure you keep in touch and preserve the team spirit
We can’t stress this enough – team spirit is crucial for the health of your organization. And it’s very easy for a person to drift away from the company’s culture, when they don’t experience it on daily basis at the office. So make sure to have regular recreational meetings where you just nourish the human bonds between team members. You can have a pre-set agenda or just talk about anything & everything, because remember: sometimes, even a random catch-up by the coffee machine could result in a cool new idea! Note: for this purpose, it’s important to use applications that allow you to see each other (Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft Teams etc.)
Don’t chose the communication channels your team uses based on random preferences
Take time to reflect on how to use the available technologies in the best possible way. Your team members will thank you! Do you like to get random calls at 5.50PM to set your preferences on an internal meeting time slot? Or to scroll through endless Viber history to find an important internal memo? We don’t. That’s why, we have internal chats on minor importance issues using regular messaging channels (Facebook Messenger, Viber, Skype), but important internal notifications are sent via email. Quick work-related questions between co-workers are addressed via Google Chat, when concerning a specific project we use the Asana comments. Urgent matters mean you can call someone on the phone, but otherwise, we avoid using this channel without notifying the other person via chat.
Don’t put pressure on your employees to always be available or to work more hours, claiming they saved time from commuting/office distractions etc.
This is just not the way you should approach this situation. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Covid-19 isolation – it’s that sometimes staying at home can be overwhelming, especially for parents with small children, or young employees that live in small spaces or shared apartments. Even when Home office is a choice this doesn’t mean it’s a privilege that needs to be paid for with longer working hours. A crucial element for good mental health is the ability to separate work from private life. And doing this while spending the entire day at home can become challenging. So even if you see that people are willing to stay late or start earlier, avoid scheduling meetings or messaging them outside the working hours.
Don’t cancel previously planned team building activities just because many chose to work from home
If people can’t take part in a joint evening at the bar or a visit to a fun park – set an alternative digital format where everyone can participate! Today there are so many ways for your team to share a new experience or learn something together. We’ve organized online cocktail-making classes, painting workshops, wine tastings… we shared photos and recipes of home-cooked dishes for national holidays we couldn’t celebrate together. We even used a delivery firm to send everyone on the team a traditional sweet bread for Easter. In addition to that – you can offer your colleagues a digital concert or set a popcorn evening where you all join via Zoom and discuss your favorite movies. Be creative and don’t forget – the sense of togetherness is at the heart of every good team!
If you are interested in hearing more about our thoughts on the topic, feel free to check out our very own dedicated podcast episode.