6th April 2016
Managing Employees Who Work From Home
Availability of internet connectivity and user friendly software has made it possible to have remotely located employees who can work from their homes. These employees, if managed well, can prove to be a highly cost effective work force as the cost of providing expensive office space is excluded. However, before implementing such a policy it is very important to explore all the areas that are important for such a programme’s success. An exploratory audit would be required to find out the kind of persons and roles that would match with such a policy. Generalizations would not help as the implementation may be different from industry to industry and even organization to organization due to the cultural context.
Roles which do not require a constant face to face contact with the clients, suppliers, colleagues and mangers are most suited for a policy that would allow for work from home. Typically the employees whose job involves computer programming, web design, writing, editing, research, translation, archiving, online customer support, online sales, maintenance of accounts would be more suited for such a policy to name a few.
Every one may not have the self- discipline or the required skills to be able to work from home. Employees can be trained, yet it is critical to evaluate each employee against certain traits which should ideally be a part of the flexi policy guidelines.Research studies across the globe have consistently shown that such a policy works best with the competent employees. It works best with those who are confident, good communicators, self-disciplined; technology savvy and can keep themselves motivated while working alone.
Training can help in several areas like time management, effective communication skills, self- motivation, IT & telecom skills provided the attitude is positive and the programme has the top management’s support.
Apart, from providing training in soft skills and technical training on software usage, the flexi workers would need guidelines on how to work from home. A home office should not be just a lap top with the option of operating from any place in the home. A separate work area with safety provisions for company data and information would be necessary. Maintaining a proper routine with breaks as done in the office would be required to ensure real time collaboration with colleagues and supervisors at the office. This will also be important from the health point of view.
Benefits of having employees work from home
Financial and operational benefits would be immediately visible to a company if the policies are implemented after a thorough reorientation of the supervisors and the employees with the support of the top management. Benefits to the employers are not just in terms of the cost savings on account of office space but also due to high productivity, retention and ease of attracting the best employees. A lot of time wasted in commuting can be saved which can be used to increase the productivity levels by the employees. A lot of employees, specially the single unit families, those with ageing parents or small children would be keen to work for companies with flexi policies that allow for work from home.
Risks of having employees work from home?
Lack of structured office environment can lead to poor communication and lack of inter personal equations between the employees unless they are very well trained and the company ensures regular get together where employees can mingle and interact with their online colleagues. Bosses may have to be reoriented to monitor performance through processes and systems in collaboration with the HR department. In the absence of robust processes of monitoring, it will not be possible to effectively manage a large number of employees working from remote locations. There will be costs attached to such processes but the benefits will far over weigh the increased budgets.
For the successful implementation of work from home policy, following steps would go a long way:
1. Employee contract should clearly state the terms of work from home jobs with a well-defined process of reporting.
2. Employers must have a separate budget for homeworking training
3. Policies, procedures and systems should be fully explained so that the employees know what is expected from them in terms of deliverables.
4. Start with a pilot programme with select employees so that the loose ends can be tied up before final implementation.
5. All policies, systems and procedures need constant monitoring even after implementation to make improvements. It has to be a dynamic process.
6. It is important to keep in regular touch with the work from home employees work force. Apart from periodical meetings, short telephone calls will be as effective as a meeting.
7. Usage of emails would need to be encouraged however the bosses must effectively respond on emails as otherwise phone calls would interrupt work. Multiple copies can also be marked in emails unlike a phone call where everyone would have to be present at the same time.
8. Videoconferencing tools such as skype can allow the employees to have online meetings and webinars from remote locations without having to call all employees at one place.
9. Sensitive information should be stored on work network instead of individual computers. This can be easily managed through secure systems.
10. Employees must be assessed and tried to ensure their suitability for working from home. The employee contract must specify the conditions under which the facility can be withdrawn at a very short notice.
Founder of Fortune Architect
Managing Director- Asia Pacific & EMEA Markets with Saviour US INC
Respected HR Leader
CHRO, LANCO INFRATECH LIMITED
Executive Director-HR & Admin, Experion Developers
Managing Director, UK Fostering, Founder, UKINDO International & CharityWorld.com
Promoter & Director, Rockland Hospitals Network, Delhi
Vice President & HR Head- India/SA at IBM HR Consultant
Founder and a principal consultant with People Talent International
Mr Chauhan has held leadership roles in HR at leading multinational companies
COO & Co-founder of Round Ark Limited, Gurgaon
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