Working from Home: Advice from an Employer
When I started Saddle Oak Software in 2008, I set it up from the very beginning to support remote workers. I love working from home, and I felt that I could easily manage my people remotely. It has worked out incredibly well, although I’ve definitely learned some lessons along the way. With the coronavirus outbreak forcing most everyone into remote work, here are 5 pro tips for employers (particularly small businesses) who are trying to figure out how to support remote employees – from someone who has been doing it for a long time.
1. Trust your employees. If you’ve hired good people, you don’t have to worry about them. They *want* to do a good job. If you don’t trust someone to work remotely, then they aren’t going to succeed whether they are at home or in the office.
2. Focus on outcomes, not actions -- When I tell people how we work at SOS, the first question everyone always asks is “how do you know people are doing their work?” My response is always “how could you not?” If I can’t look at someone’s output for the day/week/month and tell if they are getting their stuff done, that’s on me as a manager. If you have to physically watch someone do their work, trust me, that’s going to be a bad situation whether or not you are working remotely. So don’t worry about when, where, or how they are doing their work – worry about what the results look like at the end.
3. If the dog barks, it’s OK. Another reason business owners tell me that they won’t let employees work remotely is that it’s not professional if an employee is on the phone and the other person can hear a dog, a baby, or whatever in the background. That can be true, but it’s rare in my experience. It’s harder to hear ambient sounds than you might think, especially with a quality microphone. Plus, as long as it’s a one-time thing, people understand. I’ve been on calls with screaming kids (including my own), barking dogs (including my own), and lots of other random noises. It’s never been a problem. When it happens on my end, I just say “oops, sorry – working from home today,” handle whatever situation has come up, and move on. It’s not a big deal. Don’t let this stop you from moving to remote work.
4. Support people’s need for human interaction. Introverts like me are usually thrilled to work at home. However, most humans really enjoy interacting with other people (or so I’ve heard). :-) Anyway, you’ve got to support both. So when you have virtual meetings, don’t always jump right into the meeting. Allow a little time for small talk and employee bonding. It might seem like a silly thing, but it goes a long way. Also, it helps when you can get everyone together for a group lunch on a regular basis, but that’s probably not the best idea in the age of coronavirus.
5. Use cloud-based software tools. This is 2020, folks. There is a cloud-based tool for EVERYTHING, and I promise you that it’s cheaper and better than whatever you are using now. Once you make the switch, you’ll never go back. Everything we use at SOS is cloud-based. There is not one single thing that an SOS employee has to go into the office to use. We have exactly zero electronic data stored in our office, and it’s glorious. So take this as a golden opportunity to move your email, your accounting, your operations, and literally everything else out of your office and into the cloud.
Bottom line – moving to remote work will have less of an impact than you expect, and in the long-run, your employees will be much happier and more productive.