Managing a Work from Home Team

July 22, 2015 | Communication, Leadership, Teamwork

Photo by brendangates on Flickr

More companies are now promoting the use of an “agile workforce”. My previous employer reconfigured all of their offices to an open concept where there were many small workstations, tables for collaboration, and conference rooms for meetings. However, except for directors, there was no assigned seating, and there were not enough seats to accommodate every single employee if they came to work. This change in strategy was due to the fact that after studying the matter for many years, employers found that on any given day, 25% of their workforce was absent due to work travel, vacation, personal business, or illness. They also found that most employees loved the idea of working from home one to two days a week. This allowed them to use the time for the commute more constructively as well as performing simple tasks like taking and picking up kids from school. I believe this initiative helped promote a better work life balance and in some cases raised productivity.

I did see something that was lacking though. I did not see the teamwork and engagement in which I was accustomed in previous jobs where the team did not have a work from home option. I just attributed that to not being around each other. However, as I examined the matter more, I realized that all members of our teams at previous jobs were not present at the office even 75% of the time. While we did not have a work from home option, everyone in the management team had travel responsibilities which put them on the road at least one to two nights a week. Safe to say the only time everyone was at the office was to attend our monthly management meeting which was mandatory. Even vacation was discouraged during this time of the month.

Given what I learned from these experiences, we have come up with the following list of items we believe can keep engagement and teamwork at a high level in a work at home environment.

  1. Set one meeting a month with your team where everyone must be physically present. Only emergencies and unavoidable customer matters take precedence.
  2. Check in with each of your employees at the very least once a week to see how things are going, ask if you can be of assistance, and get an update on their deliverables.
  3. Have employees provide a daily check-in via email. It doesn’t have to be long….just a paragraph or two regarding some items that may cause some challenges as well as the items in which the employee is working. Leaders should do this as well. (If a good number of employees do not perform this daily, call a 15 minute meeting before the day starts every morning and go through the line of each employee asking them to provide the same information)
  4. Leaders should meet with each one of their employees to discuss current projects, road blocks, and provide coaching for the employee.
  5. Leaders should perform a formal rounding session with each one of their employees. Preferably, this should be in person. This session is not about the leaders’ needs rather the employees’ needs.

After presenting this list, we are sure many are saying to themselves, “When am I going to find time to do all of this “extra stuff”? I said the same thing when we were implementing these items at our organization. What we found is that once we start doing the items above, we have less fires to put out. We start being pro-active instead of reactive. We start playing offense instead of defense. Don’t get me wrong. For awhile, we had to play “both sides of the ball” but once we did the above items for a few months, the fires subsided and we became more pro-active.

What are some other ways we can have an engaged work at home team? What are some other ways we can promote playing offense instead of defense?

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