Today’s guest blog is brought to you by our long-time partner Inspiring HR. They hold this topic near and dear to their hearts because each and every one of their team members telecommute to serve their clients across the US.
Sometimes they answer urgent calls from their home office, sometimes from the patio at a café, and sometimes as they sit in a school parking lot waiting for their kids.
As such, they have our own cache of tales that highlight their heights of success, and those that expose the depths of their mistakes. So for this installation to our blog, we have turned to each of their HR Consultants to guide us down the path for success in telecommuting by sharing some of the do’s that we have come to live by.
CLEARING UP BLURRED LINES
One of the biggest struggles we all can relate to is the blurring of work and personal. While the prevailing advice has always been that you have to keep the two completely separate in a formal office environment, the reality is that employees who seek to telecommute are looking for ways to have their work and personal lives live in harmony.
So how do you successfully get your work done from a home office when personal distractions knock at the door?
“The best practice for me is staying focused and consistent. I have set hours which I know I’m going to work every day. There may be the occasional personal appointment but I know my ‘office time’ and don’t allow for any interruptions from friends calling or getting distracted by chores or errands. I’m my most productive when I know my start and end times each day.” Helene O’Neill, HR Consultant – New Jersey
“Boundaries! When my family is rightfully peering in from behind closed doors, when it is dinner time, and I am still working…even though I said or it should be presumed that my work day ends at 5 or 5:30. I encourage anyone working from home, regardless of position level, to make their work hours publicly known to family so work life and personal time don’t all creep together.” Mindy Flanigan, CIO & Founder
“For me, structuring my time and staying on track with projects can be challenging at times while balancing work/life demands. Being self-disciplined and structuring my days around my projects and client demands is necessary for me to be successful. On the other hand, having that flexibility and being able to take care of the needs of my family while balancing my workload is the most rewarding benefit of telecommuting.” Susan Reagan, HR Consultant – Georgia
An implied lesson here is that telecommuting challenges the management style of ‘control’. If your organization is struggling with productivity while telecommuting, you may be lacking a culture that sets clear expectations, the right environment or resources, or a compensation structure that encourages effective work practices outside the office.
Teleworkers have to self-manage, and as our team members confirm: “Having clear expectations of client service turnaround times is critical for me to prioritize projects and my overall workload.” Jennifer Archer, Senior HR Consultant – Virginia
As such, Mindy describes her approach to managing the team: “Set boundaries! I personally stink at them, but for my team understanding response time, specific expectations, what is and is not work time, when to ask for permission to work outside of scope of work and for how long, is critical. Be clear on when your team is required and not required to be available. All of these answers are needed to avoid confusion and burnout.”
ISOLATION AND TELECOMMUTING
It is easy to assume that avoiding all the idiosyncrasies and potential drama of an office environment makes working quietly at home a piece of cake, but humans are, by nature, social animals. We have found that working in isolation can have its pitfalls AND benefits.
“For me, not having someone down the hall to always bounce ideas off of, or simply validate that I am coming to the right solution was hard to get used to. However, having that available can become too much of a crutch. I have come to rely more on myself and the knowledge I have. I can still pick up the phone to get input when I need to, but not having the resource constantly available has definitely helped me grow professionally.” Lisa Porro, HR Consultant – California
“It’s easy to think you’re on an island when you’re working from home. I have found it important to replace that face time with picking up the phone and talking to my colleagues about work, about personal events, when troubleshooting, and to support each other. A quick friendly note or praising each other on our personal discussion channel in slack is important. It’s not just a social thing – devising a way to network remotely helps me to gauge if I am ahead of or behind the team so I can manage and push myself.” Valerie Juarez, Sr. HR Consultant – Colorado
Some best practices for managers to drive connection include having dedicated dates where employees congregate together at an office or, for remote workforces, using a video conference platform so that employees can visually interact or hear each other in group conversation.
Like any other employee, telecommuters need training and resources. For Inspiring HR, having standard operating procedures helps to keep them consistent with their clients and allows them to support each other during vacations or leaves of absence seamlessly. As an employer, having methods to follow up with team members to ensure they know how to access their resources and that they are on track is key to keeping them motivated and engaged. Before you place a teleworker, determining whether you need to provide equipment or if the employee already possess equipment and how they will utilize it should done at the start of the hiring process.
Having secured platforms and expectations for documentation is also a critical aspect of ensuring that your team members are operating properly, accurately, and consistently to protect your company’s assets and output.
Not everyone wants or is cut out to telework. Your interview and selection process should outline expectations as much as it probes for qualities in the candidate that lend themselves toward successful telecommuting habits. Teleworkers have to be self-motivated, be results orientated, and be effective communicators.
As tempting as it is to sleep in and drag yourself to the home office at the last possible moment, it’s important you give yourself healthy habits to be on your game while telecommuting. Give yourself time to clean up, exercise, and eat right before you start the day.
“A small thing I have learned is to stick to the water bottle and try not to drag sodas and food to my home office which is, by the way, a dedicated space. Having my personal space and office space separate helps me unwind, compartmentalize work issues to work hours, eat healthier, and sleep better because I’m not dwelling on work once I’ve left my work space.” Mindy Flanigan, CIO & Founder
That doesn’t mean that work demands are not at times stressful while telecommuting. But, as Marisol Lindstrom, Sr. HR Consultant – Maryland, reminds us: “Mindy tells us that ‘we are not transplanting organs!’… and although a rocky transition, letting go of the corporate life of being attached to mobile devices so that you live in balance makes telecommuting beneficial.”
The last item we have to share is the importance of TRUST in your telecommuting culture. Employees who feel trusted and empowered are more likely to rise above your base expectations. As a form of support, providing them with a “lifeline” when they are struggling will give them added confidence. Having an open phone line takes the place of the open door. Proactively keeping touch with your staff to support, not micromanage, and rewarding them with positive reinforcement when they reach out for help allows them to explore and stretch their abilities without fear that they are alone or vulnerable.
Click the link to view the recent INFINITI HR blog: The Value of Pre Employment Drug Testing or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance and benefits.