3 tips for WFH leaders & workers

October 31, 2020

Work From Home (WHF) is working GREAT!  

It’s A Win-Win-Win!

For many companies work-from-home (WFH) is a big part of the new norm.  It’s happening all over the globe and in nearly all industries, from tech giants like Google’s (200,000 WFH employees) to industrial companies like Hitachi (23,000 WFH employees).  The change is here and it’s turning out to be a win-win-win … good for the company, good for employees and good for families.

For most employees, productivity is the same or greater with the WFH model, even if they work from home less than 100% of the time.  Things are getting done.  There are fewer mistakes.  And the esprit de corps seems at an all time high.  No, this is not your imagination.  This is real.

Researchers are finding that people improve the quality of work, quantity of work resulting in less stress, when their company is using a full-time, or part-time, WFH approach.  The data is coming in fast with more and more studies confirming what you’re feeling, this is working out great for most employees and companies.  According to research by Harvard Business Review, working from home boosts company-wide productivity and improves employee satisfaction.

So you (or your management) may be asking, “How do we improve on the WFH model for our team?”  

3 Simple Actions that you can do this week to help lead your team to succeed according to some long-time WFH experts:

  1. Make a Workspace at Home
  2. Manage the Process, Not the Time
  3. Keep the Team Social

1. Have team members make a workspace at home...even if it doesn't have walls.

Having a defined workspace at home is a highly impactful first step.  It sets the mood for the space, even if you're only setting up your space for a few hours on the kitchen table.

A defined workspace is one of the most important things you can prescribe to your team members (and yourself). Work with every member of your team to help them create a space to work from that sets the mood for your employee and those cohabitating with them.

“One warning we keep hearing:  Don't let work encroach upon every part of your home.”  
Kathryn Vassel from  “Work from home expert tips”

Establishing a clear workspace sets the mood for your “I’m working now” psyche and it delivers a clear message to those sharing the surroundings that something is different, something important is happening in this particular spot, which helps mitigate distractions and disruptions.  

Having a well defined workspace at home allows team members to “switch on” to work more efficiently and effectively and that means greater productivity for your business.  Greater productivity from home leads to happier employees (and less need for expensive office space).  Work with your team (and family) to create a defined workspace at home whether it’s temporary or permanent.

Speaking of spaces…

We recently interviewed a handful of law firms who are buying BusyBoxes in bulk and their reasoning is evidence of a new direction for many kinds of professional service providers.  They say their staff is more productive than ever when working from home and the cost of their office spaces can go down significantly (but not to zero), saving tens of thousands of dollars per month.

“At our monthly meeting in May, I was thanking my firm for working so hard from home and one spoke up and said, ‘I’m not working more, I’m just way more productive than when I’m in the office.’ It got the partners thinking, ‘yeah, me too.’  
So now we are supporting our team with WFH equipment like monitors, high-quality microphones, etc. to make their home office the best space it can be.  We are reducing our footprint in Boston and saving $20,000 a month in rent.  And we all feel like we are getting two hours a day of our lives back.”
Frank O., Partner and Patent Atty.

2. Manage the process & people

Team-wide productivity means you need to ensure the team is using the right tools and processes to make sure information is flowing correctly and in a timely manner.  Whether you use shared lists using tools like Trello or Google Sheets, make sure everyone is working from the same information to help keep everyone “singing from the same sheet of music.”

Setting expectations of what it means to be a good WFH employee is equally important.  For many the WFH life creates enormous amounts of satisfaction with work-life balance because of simple things like doing a load of laundry at lunch instead of Saturday, not to mention a great commute.  So it’s fair, and often reassuring, to ask employees to embrace the opportunity and commit to making things work well by staying visible and engaged with all team related activities and meetings.

Setting up and encouraging people to stay visible is important to building trust and tempo.  Using a tool like Slack for quick questions, or sharing of information can be very helpful.  And in most companies teams use Slack for “water cooler time” to encourage discussing social items simply by having a channel for music, sports or maybe even the Mandalorian series.

3. Keep the team social

It’s important to note that loneliness is consistently selected as a top challenge for WFH teams.  Studies don’t think this implies that remote work causes loneliness, but that remote workers feeling lonely is also an accurate reflection of a larger-scale societal struggle with loneliness. In the U.S, loneliness has been labeled an epidemic in a study by Harvard.  So take actions.

Nurture Social Circles:  It is so important to keep social connections alive.  Human beings are, by our very nature, social.  Even introverts like an occasional chat about something work related or something fun and new (anyone enjoying the Mandalorian as much as I am?).  Because different people have different social needs, don’t force it, but enable it (see our comments about using Slack two paragraphs above).

Keep in mind, social gaps and needs are not the same for everyone.  Workers with established social circles (usually older employees and those who’ve lived in the same area a long time) do well with working from home and often thrive.  Younger and “new in town” employees may struggle with a lot more if they have a lot of work from home time, so let them come to the office more often and/or make sure you connect them with others more frequently.  

“Not everybody wants to [work from home] or is disciplined enough to. In our study, it was a self-selected group, so they were all motivated to work from home effectively, and that’s how it should be.”
from HBR study.

So start simple.  Focus on just three things and watch your team thrive in the new work from home world.  And when your team thrives, so does your business.  

  • Make a Workspace at Home
  • Manage the Process, Not the Time
  • Keep the Team Social

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