Putting in place an excellent framework for communication with homeworkers is perhaps the most important thing you can do to ensure a homeworking arrangement is successful. It will help you manage performance, keep them engaged, ensure they feel included, improve their productivity and happiness levels and will make sure problems and difficulties are picked up early and addressed quickly.
A vital part of employee wellbeing can be the social interaction involved in working with colleagues in an office, so putting in place a variety of communication methods and routines that replicate office social interaction as far as possible can make a huge difference. It can be easy to overlook that as you prioritise communication of work-related issues, but the personal connection is perhaps just as important.
Checking in with homeworkers daily via video call means you get an opportunity to physical see them and perhaps pick up on cues that all is not well, which may be missed if communication is phone or email only.
If you have multiple homeworkers, consider a daily brief catch-up chat (not about work tasks) to replicate the type of conversation found in an office kitchen or as people arrive for the day. Some workplaces even run an ongoing video conference throughout the day for people to dip into.
Encourage the personal and light-hearted chat and don’t be tempted to constantly try to bring focus back to work discussion for efficiency reasons – that could be counter-productive, and consider using messaging apps for the light stuff (although not for any difficult conversations or disagreement).
To replace work social activities such as after-work drinks, team lunches or other get togethers, look into video conference virtual ‘drinks’, ‘lunch and learn’ activities where teams bring their lunch to a video webinar or talk given by someone on an interesting subject, quizzes, virtual escape rooms or other similar activities. And ensure any in-person group activities include those who work from home – just because they are not normally in the office doesn’t mean they can’t possibly attend or would prefer not to.
As well as the vital social interaction with colleagues, make sure homeworkers know how else they can ensure their own wellbeing and mental health are prioritised when working at home. Encourage them to follow a daily routine (enabling them to decide on what that actually looks like if at all possible), and not to be tempted to work in their pyjamas.
Even having a journey to the office means workers are (hopefully!) getting at least a bit of fresh air, so remind your homeworkers that scheduling some outside time and exercise into their routine is sensible, as is eating right – many people resort to excessive ‘grazing’ whilst working from home, either instead of or as well as proper meals.
Being able to shut their work away at the end of their day is also important for homeworker wellbeing – conscientious workers can easily find themselves continuing working for much longer than they would if attending the office, or drifting back to work after an evening meal because it’s there.
When you have team members working with you in the office, communication and noticing and assisting their wellbeing can come more naturally. When they are based remotely, it takes a little more effort, but is just as important as working out how you are going to monitor and measure productivity and performance, and can have a significant positive impact on the success of the homeworking arrangement.
If you’d like further advice on communicating with your employees working from home, do get in touch.