Ask the Expert – Making work-from-home work for you

Making work-from-home work for you

by Kim Hunter, People First HR Services


Although not every workplace is suited to remote work, many industries have roles or tasks that could be effectively completed outside of their regular ‘office’ environments. For many workers, the flexibility to work from home/the cottage/anywhere with sunshine is a tangible benefit and builds loyalty to their organization. People feel trusted and valued when they can have flexibility in their time. If your workplace hasn’t yet embraced remote work, this month’s issue hopes to provide some ideas to consider when managing a dispersed team.

Be realistic: Not every worker can transition successfully to working remotely. People who are successful working remotely generally are self-motivated and able to hold themselves accountable. If your team-member struggles in these areas while they’re in the office, it’s not likely to get better at home.

Communication: Remote work requires constant and consistent communication. If you have team members that are out of the office more than one day per week ensure that you’re scheduling regular touch base meetings so you know how the work is progressing, if they have what they need to complete the project, and that they aren’t feeling the ‘silo’ effect from being away from their peers. Poor or irregular communication undermines trust, and without trust remote work won’t be successful.


“Setting expectations is not micro-managing; the rules you set should be those that help you create an environment of trust.”


Set clear expectations: If there are particular requirements you have for those that are working remotely don’t make people guess – write them down (heck, even consider a policy!). Some of the areas in which you may want to set expectations include hours of work, telephone (i.e. do you need people to forward their office phone line), and reporting on work completed. Setting expectations is not micro-managing; the rules you set should be those that help you create an environment of trust. An example would be using shared calendars to log remote work time – if someone is working from home they should be available to their peers and everyone should know how to contact them when they’re out of the office.

Embrace technology: Skype, What’s App, Slack, Google Hangouts, Dropbox – there’s dozens of fabulous (and often free!) ways to support your remote workforce with technology. One of the real benefits to employees of working in an ‘office’ environment is the opportunity to share a moment or information with colleagues. Creating the ‘virtual water cooler’ is a necessity for remote workers to stay meaningfully connected to peers. Luckily, free technology like Slack or What’s App or even Skype (there’s a great chat function) can make the distance disappear.
Encourage your teams to standardize how they talk to each other, and make sure that the platforms work equally well inside and outside the office walls. Here at PFHR, we have an open-concept workspace and sometimes it’s far less disruptive to just ‘chat’ a colleague on an app. Creating chat groups on the app for work teams allows us to stay connected even if some of us are working from home or travelling.

Be open-minded: Although working in a coffee shop at 7 pm, or at a picnic table in the park might not be your personal productivity sweet-spot, it might be exactly the right place for your employee. Particularly for younger workers, a lot of the rules about when and where work gets done have gone out the window. Not everyone works best at home – employees may not have a dedicated workspace, or they may have roommates or family members who disrupt their work.

Many colleagues have said to me over the years “I could NEVER have an office at home – I’d only be able to think about the laundry/dishes/etc.” For me, my home office provides the same structure as coming to work at my PFHR desk (and yes, sometimes I do laundry on my lunch break) but that is my work style and I can’t assume it works for everyone. If there are privacy or security concerns in your work, you can provide guidelines for using appropriate WIFI networks etc., but be flexible in thinking about where productive work can happen.



Our Expert

Kim Hunter
Senior Consultant
People First HR Services