So, what happens when a workforce, faced with a pandemic, shifts from being office based to home based?  With the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus, the discussion becomes less that of a policy that a business owner may want to consider one day to one more about rapid deployment, ASAP.  Employees working from home has become a reality and it may be difficult to deal with.

There have been many studies about employees working from home versus those who work in the office.  The pros of working from home included saving money on transportation, clothing and eating out.  Many studies suggest that employees who work from home are more productive; that they tend to work longer hours and be less distracted.  Considering recent events, working from home will also limit exposure to disease and greatly reduces the spread of illness. The constant con in all the research regarding working from home is the isolation factor.  Working from home means the organic collaboration that often comes with working as a team diminishes. It can slow creativity and, in many cases, lead to employees feeling detached from the group.

What can a business owner do to keep the teamwork flowing?

Having employees working from home shouldn’t be tantamount to sending them off to navigate a jungle, solo, at night.  You don’t simply pat them on the back and tell them you hope you see them again sometime soon.   If you work in an environment where work can continue from multiple locations via laptops, conference calls and Skype- take the initiative to set up conference calls or video chats where everyone checks in at the same time.  Have scheduled “brainstorming” sessions on specific topics. Managers should continue to check in daily with their employees via email, just like they would acknowledge an employee daily in the office environment. A quick note saying, “hello”, asking how things are going and offering assistance is never an unpleasant message for an employee to read.

Employees who have never worked from home may have trouble adjusting to the new arrangement.  They will not only need to create a new schedule for themselves, but work-from-home boundaries as well.  In a recent article, Jill Duffy addresses the keys to successfully navigating working from home.  The topics discussed are important for managers and business owners to learn about as well since they need to know what support they should be willing to offer employees in their new environments.    

Manager and business owners also need to adjust their expectations of their work-from-home-team.  Working remotely does not mean the employee is now available 24/7.  It means they are keeping “normal” working hours that are sufficient to completing their assigned tasks and projects.   This may mean employees are not available between 4-5 pm because their kids have just come in the front door from school.  However, those same employees may now be working from 7-9 pm, because the kids are now fed and settled in. 

At the end of the day, working from home doesn’t turn a productive employee lazy.  However, what working from home can do is isolate people; mentally and physically.  So, take the roll of managing work-from-home-employees to heart and counter the isolation factor with a reasonable amount of contact and interaction via all the devices that makes working from home possible in the first place.  Then, manage your own expectations of your employee to be conducive with the new work environment they have been placed in. 

Do you have more questions about managing a team that is now working from home?  Maybe you have other employee concerns you would like to discuss with attorney?  Give us a call today at  (505) 715-5700 or schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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