Conceptually work from home has not been a unknown subject, many organizations have practiced work from home for a long time and there are arguments on both sides. One side gives various examples and instances of how work from home improved productivity and even enhanced revenues, on the other side the arguments not only talk about loss of productivity, but the company seeing financial burden as a result of Work from home.
Having observed work from home evolve and get practiced by various industries over the last 20 years, here are a few things, I believe, that work particularly for the Service Sector, each sector has their own aspects to handle, and this one is primarily focused at the Service sector.
1. Create Guidelines, don’t let it be an extended weekend
Like an office atmosphere, a set of rules need to be in place to ensure that the professionalism is present. The purpose of the guidelines is to pass on the message that Work from home is not like doing ones office work on a Weekend or a holiday, quite to the contrary, it is more like doing exactly what an office routine is, barring the physical presence (which is substituted by online presence). So to make this workable, have some basics in place like everyone needs to be online between 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, breaks are allowed, but unlike an office situation when smoke or tea breaks are taken, in this situation one takes breaks for to do house hold chores.
2. Say No to Audio Conference and Yes to Video Conference
An important part of our society is the human interaction, a great degree of that is attributed to visual interactions. If we do only audio, we are missing the visual sensations and both the callers miss the importance that emotions and human touch provide. Not only does a rule of ensuring that all interactions are done on video helps set a discipline in place of people being properly turned out, but also ensures the human connect during interactions. It is this human connect that ensures that productivity does not see a decline in the absence of a work environment where peer pressure and organizational culture drives a lot of behaviors.
3. Interact with your subordinates
When work from home are extended over a period of 2 to 3 days, it is good to interact with the individual on a one on one basis over a video call and interact with them on both work and non-work parameters. One of the biggest casualties of a work from home environment is the dilution of Trust between the interacting parties, while one may believe that they are doing a lot of work and delivering on time, the second party may believe that the other is not really contributing as much as they could have had they been under constant supervision or in an office environment (sometimes rightly so also). This dilution of trust not only impact the delivery and productivity during work from home, but also impacts it in the long run. The purpose of these calls on video is to ensure that the subordinates are constantly guided where they need guidance and to ensure that they are aware of what needs to be delivered and how the delivery impacts the organization.
4. Ensure the basics
As much we would like to believe that individuals know how to turn up in front of their computers in a work from home situation, we should not forget that we have rules about office dress code, we have rules about when to eat, what to eat and how to speak. Keeping privacy in mind, the exact rules can’t be implemented in a home environment, but there should definitely be a certain set of rules that individuals need to follow when they are in front of their computer, irrespective of the fact whether they are connected on video to someone or not. For example, a basic rule states while starting work from home individuals are expected to be in business casuals and neatly turned out. Similarly, a rule should clearly state that the background of where they are working should be reasonably appropriate, that means it should not have posters or things in the background which are offensive or inappropriate.
5. The Etiquette
Every situation has an etiquette to it, therefore it would be wrong to believe that the office etiquettes can be simply followed in a work from home environment, or to feel that everyone is aware of the work from home etiquette. Ensure that everyone is aware of the work from home etiquette your organization follows, some standard ones are as below
a. Use Mute: the mute button is to be used at all times when not speaking, even if you are not speaking and you are not on mute, this is akin to you speaking in a conference room setting while others are speaking. Unmute only when speaking.
b. Avoid dress code accidents: Since it is a video-based call, almost everyone is tempted only to be appropriately dressed only in the upper half, please take the pain and dress appropriately in entirety, it may just avoid an accident and embarrassment to you and others.
c. Seclusion: choose a secluded place in the house, and inform others that you are on work from home, so this small area is your office for the day, not only this helps enhance productivity, but ensures you can connect with others without having to worry about the environmental interferences.
d. Be contactable: whatever tool the office provides for checking connectivity and team communications should be always on, rather than someone having to call and remind you to switch it on. Contactable does not mean to be contactable on phone, it means to be contactable on the communication system of office
e. Talk more: unlike an office atmosphere where emails and chats may be better for asking a colleague or a team member about questions and collaborations or interactions, in a work from home environment it is very important to do a video call with others and to minimize the use of emails, this would not only be faster, but will also add a little bit of urgency in the mind of all concerned to complete the task.
f. Be professional: remember, this is still a work environment, so please stay professional in all your interactions with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders. Deliver on time, do quality work and ensure the organizations brand values are represented by you even in this situation.
I do hope you contribute in making Work from Home a standard practice in your organization.
Mandeep Singh is a Partner with HRhelpdesk, a Boutique Human Resource Consulting firm.