What’s your working from home policy?
Gone are the days where 9–5 meant staring at the same four cubicle walls. Laptops, cloud storage and instant messaging apps mean your team doesn’t need to stay shackled to their desks. People who choose their workspace are happier and more efficient, which should be more than enough reason to consider formalising a working from home policy in your office.
What is working from home?
The answer to this question is more often than not the result of figuring out what works best for your team. On the one hand, companies with either few full-time or many part-time employees who tend to work off site might decide to do away with an office all together. On the other, even the most corporate and traditional of environments might find that allowing a team member to step away from the office during quiet periods gives them space to think.
For a team member, the best practice for working from home is always more or less the same:
- Keep your team updated, so everyone knows where and how to find you.
- Take responsibility for being present and/or available and set up online for meetings.
- Reply to all contact quickly and efficiently, and leave a memo when you’re away from your desk (even briefly).
How to create a company policy for working from home
Here are our five top tips for making the most of your team when they’re spending the day working from their home office (even if that secretly means “in bed”)…
1. Define the parameters
Answer the big questions up top, before anyone has time to get confused. What are the occasions when someone can work from home? Is there a limit on the number of days you can take? What about before or after a bank holiday, or during high intensity periods? Do you have to stick to normal working hours?
Your policy can be as constricted or relaxed as you like, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that choosing the latter might even increase productivity, but it’s about figuring out what you and your team all feel comfortable with. Why not start with a conversation, followed by a trial period? Get feedback from everyone along the way so you can figure out what works.
Once you’ve got an idea of the process that’s best for your situation, you can save all of this information in a document in your Company Profile on CharlieHR.
2. Make it official
Some companies (including ours!) make every other Friday work where you like, where team members are encouraged to work out of office, either in a coffee shop or at home.
If your business finds it hard to function without everyone in the same place, or working from home is new for you, this is a good way to give your team a chance to try it out. For companies that love a little outside-the-box thinking, consider also making it work on what you like, so everyone can take a break from their daily role and complete a single, interesting project of their choosing. It can be really exciting and inspiring to reach the end of a mini-project in a single day (and gives you something to talk about in the office on Monday!).
3. Establish communication channels
Slack is the ultimate remote working tool, as it allows your team to stay in the loop all day long, even when you’re not physically together. Insist that everyone stick to their meeting obligations throughout the day, which can be conducted through Skype, or give good notice if they won’t be available at a specified time.
It’s also worth clarifying whether an internal response needs to be immediate, or if individuals have a 10 or 20 minute grace period to get back to each other. This lets everyone know exactly how far they can reasonably stray from their computer or phone.
4. Stay in the loop
If you use CharlieHR+, you can let your team know when you’re working from home with a single click on your profile. If this is linked up to Slack it’ll notify your whole team in a public channel, so no one is left wondering why they’re all alone in the office!
You could also think about sending round a check-in email chain in the morning, or a summary email chain at the end of the day, that everyone can contribute to.
5. Define your tasks
Though working from home has been shown to be as, or even more productive than working in an office, individuals may still take the opportunity to use their time a little differently.
Rather than insisting on keeping track of everyone during the day, make sure that you define work in terms of tasks. What does each team member need to complete, and by when? Try using a board like Trello to track what everyone is tackling.
How to handle meetings remotely
Meetings are probably the one time where it’s really important for everyone to be face to face. If you’ve ever tried to manage a multi-person conference call, you’ll know the stress that remote participation can add to a brainstorming session.
The first option here is to use a video conferencing software like Skype, but make sure you test your connection thoroughly before you start.
For short meetings, stand ups and daily goal setting, we’ll sometimes run meetings over Slack. It feels a bit like trying to run a company over MSN messenger, but it totally works! Make one person the master of ceremonies, set a time limit, list out your agenda and let everyone type their piece.
There’s no such thing as too much communication
When it comes to remote working, communication really is the secret to success. Every week at our kick off we ask the team to let everyone know if they have any plans to be out of office at any point, then we post on Slack as we head out. If we’re spending the whole day OOO, we also log it on CharlieHR, which posts it automatically to our general Slack feed.
The key is to make great communication a habit, practiced and supported by the whole team. Beyond that, leave everyone to choose when and how they like to work best and reap the benefits of a happier and more efficient – if occasionally slightly sparser – workplace!