To ensure strong relationships and maximizing productivity with remote workers, people leaders have to manage differently. Businesses can set the stage by identifying and communicating clear expectations to their remote workers. Work from Home policies and or agreements needs to have clear parameters.
When one works from home, work time, and personal time intermingles. However, the COVID-19 pandemic working remote has added all kinds of challenges, such as having children, spouses, roommates, pets at home, and competing for attention. This dynamic makes it that much more challenging to separate work from home. Setting expectations regarding employee’s availability and response time for meetings, client calls, project deadlines, email responses, to name a few, allows employees to manage their schedules and adequately plan for necessary focus or quite frankly quiet time. It also allows for a dialog between employees and their employers to address alternatives or accommodations during this pandemic specifically.
Some leaders I have worked with have been frustrated with the lack of response time or perceived response time from their employees working remotely. Set specifics parameters for response time regarding external and internal emails or calls. Allow employees to use various tools to respond to employees, instant messaging, face-time, text messages, phone, iPad, or laptop. The point is to allow for flexibility in the way employees get to the result desired, which is being available and responsive.
I had one client who was disappointed in how remote workers were showing up to zoom meetings – according to him, and his employees were showing up in caps, unkept, or adequately groomed. It can be effortless to roll out of bed, brush their teeth (we hope), and begin working. Just as you have a dress code or grooming policy for employees at the office, you can have one for virtual meetings.
Finally, to ensure strong relationships and maximize productivity with remote workers, your policy should define how productivity will be measured. You can include expectations of weekly or designated check-ins on work expectations. This practice will communicate expectations to both managers and their employees. Out of mind, out of sight can occur with remote workers, and having a communication plan allows employees and their direct reports to stay informed, build trust and their working relationship.
Some additional components to include in your policy should consist of necessary preferences of home office set up, such as secure internet connection, office equipment needed (provided by the company), etc. Additionally, including safety practices or expectations while working remotely. Finally, your policy should have an acknowledgment of responsibility of taking timely lunch and rest breaks, prohibitions of working off the clock, and reporting all hours worked.