Five ways to manage home workers
Working from home can sound like a dream come true — no stressful commute, a fresh lunch prepared in your own kitchen every day and, of course, no co-workers to distract you or steal your snacks. But it’s not entirely without downfalls. The biggest of these is the logistical challenge faced by those managing teams who are working from home. From staying in touch to maintaining team spirit and keeping up everyone’s levels of motivation, it’s a tricky business.
Are there any secrets to successfully managing home workers? Claire Torrington is our very own Training and Development Manager. She also happens to be a committed homeworker of over 18 years who has successfully managed teams of remote-working staff. Here are Claire’s top-five tips for managing home workers.
- Communicate regularly:
Communication is key to keeping a network of homeworkers operating at their full potential. Once people go incommunicado, they start to lose the team spirit that makes any business successful. Failure to communicate well can also result in more misunderstandings and mistakes, as well as making your team less adaptable to changing circumstances.
Claire recommends scheduling regular team video conferences. She suggests trying one at the start of every working day to brief on the day’s actions, then a second one to evaluate what’s been done by the close of play. “It’s important to also arrange plenty of 1-2-1 calls or video conferences with team members, in the same way that you’d drop by someone’s desk in the office to ask how they are getting on,” she notes. “You need to carefully balance this though. Do it too much and a team member might feel like you don’t trust them. Do it too little and they could feel neglected!”
- Really listen:
E-meetings aren’t the same as chatting with someone face-to-face. If you don’t pay attention to every second, it’s very easy to zone out and completely miss what someone has just said to you. As a manager, you should always respond to the requests of your team. What do they need? What would help them?
Homeworkers often miss out on the opportunities to develop that are afforded to office-based employees. While it might not make sense to send a homeworker on a ‘First Aid at Work’ course, you should still encourage your virtual team to try new things, complete online courses and share what they have learned with everyone else. This won’t only ensure your team becomes more talented as times goes on, it’s also a massive motivational boost that will keep everyone working hard.
- Take small steps towards big goals:
In the office, taking a macro approach can often feel like the most efficient way to get a project completed. Yet the opposite’s true in a remote-working environment because sitting alone in your home listening to others talk about big goals can feel very, very daunting.
That’s why it’s far better to take a piecemeal approach. Break every big project down into a series of smaller incremental steps, then celebrate the completion of each one so that everyone can understand the contribution they made. “If you’ve got a homeworker assigned to a two-week project,” explains Claire, “they’ll start to feel lost and overwhelmed after a few days. By breaking it down into smaller chunks and reporting back to you after the completion of each, progress feels so much more tangible that they will work more efficiently.”
- Inject some fun:
From the morning banter to after-work drinks, social activities among colleagues boosts morale and are a vital component to any successful organisation. So don’t let home workers miss out on them. “I am just finalising a pub quiz,” says Claire. “I’m hoping to get 60 consultants to log onto a new platform so they can join the quiz live on their phones. I can’t wait to see if it’s a success!”. Of course, there’s much more you can do, from sharing memes and jokes in the office chatroom to having virtual ‘coffee breaks’ where your team can just shoot the breeze. Few people talk 100% business in an office, so it doesn’t make sense to impose that kind of rule when people are working from home.
To conclude, Claire says, “The questions I always need to ask myself are: how am I adding value? How is my team adding value? How can I best fulfil my role? We live in an age where all the tools are available for most office-based employees to work from home. If you give managing them your best shot, there should be no reduction in productivity. In fact, you could even see a boost.”