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How to best support your working from home staff

talkroute_work_from_home2Many companies have embraced a culture of working from home because their employees can be as productive if not more than when they are in the office. Well-known names like WordPress, Github, Basecamp and Buffer are a part of a growing list of companies that let their staff work from anywhere.

Staying productive at a home office requires specific mindsets, habits, and skills, and commonly recommended strategies include taking regular breaks, planning time for workouts, limiting distractions and self-tracking the daily progress.

As HR managers, you can help your staff to reach the maximum level of productivity from their home office. By adjusting certain aspects of employee relations, training and development, you will help build a productive team, and one in which the working location is irrelevant.

Supportive Dynamics Among Team Members

Human Resources play a decisive role in the way a team works, and play, together.

Firstly, you should not let “working from home” be considered as a privilege, a trade-off or an easy ride. As long as employees produce the required results, they must receive fair treatments and benefits whether they work from home or not. Remove any stigmatisation against the idea and show empathy with the difficulties an employee may face whilst being at home, such as the tendency to overwork and the isolation of missing out on the office’s coffee breaks and human connection.

Some department managers tend to micro-manage their remote staff and regularly check up on them, but this can be counter productive. For examples, some find that a major perk of working from home is a chance to exercise more during the day, and to make up for this by spending some hours working in the evening instead. Whilst this can greatly increase productivity, as well as increase an employee’s health and happiness, an overzealous manager could lack the flexibility to allow this.

Employees can only enjoy their flexible schedules if company’s processes are not intrusive. Regarding task management during the day, it is sufficient to have one stand-up meeting at the beginning of the day and a quick follow-up before a days end. Hourly checking up on a staff does no good for her productivity.

As mentioned above, the lack of a personal connection with other team members can be a challenge. Working from home, one misses the small chats about a new hobby or a crazy night out. You can make sure that this reduction in interaction is offset by organising more social events outside the office hours and even better not in the office. It could be anything from a cheese tasting event on a Friday at a local restaurant to a language club every other Wednesday in a local bar.

Make Training Accessible

You should make sure that your remote-working staff still benefit from similar training to the ones available in the office. If you have in-house training material, the first step is to put them on sharing storage drives like Google Drive or Dropbox. You can even design online training courses from scratch. Are you lacking the resources to do so? Use digital learning platforms like Udemy or Coursera.

Udemy is one of the largest online course providers, enabling users to learn many skills from programming languages to podcasting. Coursera is another option with most courses being free.

If your staff prefer small, local classes, check out marketplaces like Weteachme, where a person can easily find a local class for their own training. You can also use mYngle to offer your remote workers face-to-face online language lessons whichever are beneficial to their career and personal development.

Invest in productivity tools for remote working

Team communication

Slack has become essential for many virtual teams. It substantially reduces the number of internal emails and saves hours on sharing files and searching for the right documents. You can send screenshots quickly in-line with the chat. The private channels help connect any employee to the whole office, wherever he or she is.

For a small team, Slack is free with a searchable archive of up to 10,000 messages. Going over the limit, you pay a fee – but it’s totally worth investing.

Project management

Trello is a powerful project management tool and can now be linked to Slack. You can quickly add a new task to a Trello board, assign it to another team member, or mark it as done, right from within Slack. The whole team can check up on the progress of a task and visualise how a project is moving along, regardless of the location of each member.

You can also start with Trello for free, but will receive extra benefits when upgrading.

Document Sharing

Google Drive and Dropbox, the two most popular document sharing tools, do a decent job of allowing users to upload and download files, from light spreadsheets to heavy videos. A user can access a file from anywhere, whether from his work laptop, personal smartphone or a tablet. Google Docs or Dropbox Paper enables a team to collaborate on ideas, from a starting point to the finishing line.

Video Conferencing

Google Hangouts, Skype or Sqwiggle are videoconferencing tools that can connect a team when one person or the whole team are not in the same office. With Google Hangouts and Skype, many users can join a call simultaneously. Sqwiggle is a web-based tool, offering an always-on video workroom which runs on very low bandwidth, therefore a home-working employee can feel like she sits face-to-face with her co-workers.

Progress tracking tools

With a personal time-tracking tool, such as iDonethis or Toggl, a user can keep track of her daily hours as well as achievements to share with a co-worker and to celebrate along the way. That ability is vital for the motivation and productivity.

Allowing one or two employees to work from home is different to embracing a culture of empowerment that benefits from highly productive remote staff. Don’t let your at-home staff be left without support. Creating favourable team dynamics, making training accessible and investing in the right tools are the things that you can do to help your employees to boost their productivity, away from the office.

About the author:

quynh-150x150Quynh Nguyen writes about productivity for individuals and teams while travelling the world. She loves learning languages, riding a bike and having many nice cups of tea. Connect with her @QuynhThuNguyen or visit her at www.quynh.nl

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3 Comments on “How to best support your working from home staff”

  1. Justyna Says:

    Quynh, thank you for sharing 🙂 My list is almost the same 🙂 I love Slack & Dropbox, but to task management I use http://www.kanbanery.com 🙂 It works better for me in my business. It has more awesome features than Trello, like chat or reports that shows how your progress looks like & how to estimate tasks 🙂 Check out;)

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