In the context of COVID – 19, the need for employees to work from home seems imminent.
Telecommuting, or Teleworking, is a work arrangement that allows employees to work at home or at some other off ‐ site location, using the internet and a telephone.
For most people in this part of the world, this is a culture shift! And when such an arrangement is thrust upon organizations, it can be a far greater challenge! Both employers and employees are not accustomed to navigate through this arrangement.
So, what can organizations do to manage and maintain accountability, and uphold productivity, while implementing this unusual requirement?
- Create a ‘work from home’ policy
- Identify the employees who could telecommute, who can’t telecommute, and who could work on site if possible, based on their job roles.
- Educate all employees about the policy – in case there is a need to implement this arrangement.
Creating a ‘Work from Home’ Policy:
- The policy should clearly state the purpose of the work arrangement, the anticipated duration of the arrangement, communication, responsiveness, and availability expectations, and enforcements.
- It should clearly outline security expectations, such as, not working in public areas or on public networks during ‘core’ hours.
- It should specify how performance during this time will be measured, evaluated, and appraised.
- It should include security measures and mandatory actions for those given remote access.
- It should include protection measures in place for those who are required to work on site.
What supervisors and managers could do?
Set productivity expectations:
- Start with results and expected deadlines (daily, weekly), followed by defining the behaviours and actions that are expected. Clearly define the ‘What’ and ‘How’.
- Determine and agree how productivity will be monitored and assessed. Time logs, Task completion logs, or other task management platforms such as Easynote or Monday.com are worth considering.
- For those employees who have fewer daily tasks or activities to complete and report: Use this period to assign meaningful development tasks and e-learning assignments. Consult with the learning and development team to develop and assign learning-based work products that encourage virtual collaboration with other team members. These assignments could focus on developing skills like innovation, creative thinking, strategic thinking and planning, analytical thinking, etc.
Set ‘core’ hours:
- ‘Core hours’ helps employees to better coordinate their personal matters alongside their work responsibilities and to be more productive throughout the day.
- Example: 8:00am to 11am and then 1pm to 3pm. During this time, employees are expected to be ‘online’ – i.e., they must be available to their supervisors, clients, and co-workers and be fully ready to act or respond immediately. This means the employee must be able to access their laptop and files, make notes etc. during this time.
- During ‘core’ hours employees are expected to be prepared to attend virtual meetings or business calls. This means ensuring they are in a quiet room with no background distractions or disturbances during this time.
- Since there is a possibility of in-coming video calls, employees are also expected to be dressed presentably during this time.
- In case of emergencies or unexpected situations, employees are expected to ‘report’ their unavailability during ‘core’ hours, just as they would if they weren’t able to come into work.
- Employees who aren’t available or responsive during ‘core’ hours without prior notice, may be marked ‘absent’.
Set communication expectations:
- Set up ‘check-ins’ with the employee, depending on the nature of the position and responsibility. It could be a quick call from the employee to their manager at the start of the day to discuss ‘action’ for the day, and then another call at the end of day, for an update.
- Determine responsiveness expectations: For example: timeline to respond to e-mails and messages, or returning a phone call.
- Determine reporting expectations: daily, weekly? Via e-mail, text, or voice note? Will there be a structure or format?
- Determine feedback mechanism: How and when will you give feedback on the employee’s work? Will you meet virtually? Will it be in writing via e-mail? Will it be a voice note?
- Above all, emphasize trust and mutual accountability.
Set readiness expectations:
- Employees are expected to equip and maintain their ‘home office’ or ‘home desk’ so that they can accomplish their work in an efficient and expeditious manner.
- Depending on the nature of their jobs, this may require having a laptop, headphones, an internet connection, desk stationery, and other relevant equipment available for their use. Where necessary, employees may request their line manager’s approval for office supplies in this regard.
- Employees must be advised to set up their work in a quiet area of their home – that is not easily prone to interruptions or distractions.
- Employees must be advised to consider using a ‘do not disturb’ sign or close the door, during ‘core’ hours.
- Advise employees to brief their family members about their ‘work from home’ schedule
Specify how the policy will be upheld:
- Be clear on how the rules and expectations of the policy will be upheld. If employees fail to comply, or fail to deliver on expectations, how would it impact their appraisal? For those employees who deliver on expectations, how would it work in their favour? Could telecommuting be an ‘incentive’ they may be offered to them, in the long term?
There are of course many other aspects to consider, but for now, it seems like there isn’t much time for that!