COVID-19 has forced businesses to rethink their operations. And that’s an understatement. “Work From Home Policy” has been the most visible symbol of social distancing across the world. Businesses may create work from home policies, but it’s employees who need (and use them). For many, it’s about customizing routine. And for many, as this Xperti blog reflected, it’s a struggle. What’s your work from home policy? And how are you adjusting to your new routine?

In our last blog on the subject, we gave some tips on how to make work from home productive and easy. We hope it helped. Today’s blog follows up on progress since then. Reports generally suggest that employee productivity has increased. (After their office’s work from home policy became official). But there’s a dis-balance. Everyone who thought work from home would mean more quality time didn’t envision the reality.

What is Work From Home Policy?

The WFH Policy defines how employees can execute their responsibilities from home. As an official document, it sets the rules on who can avail WFH privileges, their frequency, etc.

It states the conditions that make work from home permissible. The policy also outlines:

  • Expected behavior
  • Deliverables and
  • Norms employees must adhere to, even from home.

It describes resource arrangements, logistical requirements, target setting, and team behavior.

Pros And Cons Of A Work From Home Policy

As we mentioned earlier, this blog is for people who are already working from home. (And struggling to strike the perfect balance). At this point, most of the advantages and disadvantages must already be evident to you. We’ve summed them up in the table below anyway. (Feel free to add any we may have missed in the comments section)!

PROS CONS
Flexible Weakens work-life balance
Lowers costs Burnout
Personal freedom Isolation
Saves time Low visibility and accountability
Increases productivity Workplace culture erosion
Improves morale

10 Tips for Employees to work from home

1. Adding Back Quality To Time

Family-Quality-Time

We once believed that a work from home policy was for parents. Young parents. Those who had to juggle vaccinations, PTA meetings, soccer matches, and work. A work from home policy, (one assumed), would give them breathing room from an endless shuttle. Not to mention, saving a mini fortune on daycare and commute.

All these advantages do exist. But every work from home policy missed out something: It’s called work/life balance for a reason.

It’s time to tweak your personalized work from home policy if it doesn’t allow you to enjoy quality time. With yourself and/or with loved ones.

Work from home shouldn’t be about juggling indoor work errands with home errands. Any form of toil—let alone remote work—is not an endless to-do list.

Your work from home policy should also be about reasonable leisure and tuning out. It should allow you to pursue hobbies and tend to long-overdue personal projects. Most of all, it should allow you to reflect, alone. If you haven’t scheduled ‘me time’ in your personal work from home policy, now’s the time to do it.  This is a unique opportunity to rejuvenate yourself. Pursue quality time. Self-care isn’t selfish.

2. Turn Off The “Always On Mode”

If you read Work From Home Tip #1 and thought, “easier said than done”, you’re not alone. The freedom to work from home doesn’t free us from our responsibilities. Our routines have changed overnight. So it’s hard to draw lines anywhere. You cannot schedule infants falling sick, or your child struggling with online homework. Boredom is no longer an “issue”. It’s a full-blown problem that families struggle with, together. No employee, nor any business owner, can now say, “I’ll deal with that at the office, tomorrow.”

Because. The Office. Is. Everywhere.

As long as you’re tuned in to your devices, you’ll worry, you’ll obsess. You’ll yearn for a distraction but won’t find one. Because mentally, you’re still hinged on that upsetting email. Or your lax teammate. Or the module that refuses to complete itself. Being dedicated is good, but not if it comes at the expense of your wellbeing and creativity.

Switch off your “always-on mode”. In off-hours, ignore that WhatsApp message. Resume a physical, device-free hobby instead. Overcoming your “ping” addiction won’t be easy. But it’s a necessary step to take if you want your anxiety to go down to normal levels.

3. Regaining Work/Sleep Balance

Work-Balance

This work from home policy tip is for the workaholics.

(Yes, we mean you).

A downside of work from home, and remote work, is that you don’t have to sleep early to wake up in time for ‘office tomorrow’.

“I’ve got a long day ahead” doesn’t quite have the same punch when you’re in pajamas at your breakfast table.  So even after you tell yourself that you’ve called it a day, you’re still:

  • Reading emails in bed, or
  • Checking out work-related websites, or
  • Typing out ideas or to-do lists on an app

Does that sound like you?

Stop. Now.

We know stress and anxiety levels have surged in the wake of the pandemic. Now we’re getting reports that a global mental health crisis will follow the pandemic. Being sleep-deprived makes you more vulnerable to both. And other disorders. Did you know that hidden depression is one of the leading causes of death in the world?

To fight sleep deprivation, try:

  • Moving your routine back by 2 hours.
  • Replacing in-bed-screen time with a book or a simple exercise
  • Creating ‘clumsy art’ that shuffles up your physical surroundings
  • Modifying your diet (have a heavy dinner and a light lunch instead of the other way around)

4. Bringing Weekends Back

Bringing-Weekends

Amateurs think “Every day is Sunday” when your employer allows you to work from home. Old hands know the opposite is true. Collaborating across different time zones? Resisting the temptation to work weekends will be difficult. But reclaiming weekends in a remote work setting isn’t important. It’s necessary. It’s unlikely that the volume of work will ever go down. But your capacity to manage that volume will decline if you don’t use the weekend to rest and regain your energy.

Americans are notorious for putting in some of the longest work hours in the world. (And for enjoying the shortest vacations). What’s worth measuring is their:

  • Long-term productivity
  • Creativity, and
  • Problem-solving skills

In comparison with nations with a more balanced lifestyle.

5. Synchronizing Time

Synchronizing-Time

In the pre-COVID days, off-hour meetings were few and far. Now, they’re routine. The flexibility of a work from home schedule is great. But mismatched routines can cause problems for (and between) employees.

Agree on a middle ground that works for everyone in your team.

If an email can sort something out, don’t get on a call. Remember, calls are invasive. Emails aren’t. Don’t take this unique window to work from home for granted.

The best work from home policy advice we can give is:

Respect time. Yours, and everyone else’s.

Propose reschedules and do it without apology if you’re on the receiving end. Inappropriate meeting times are inconsiderate. No one should tolerate them.

Let’s not forget that remote work is not a paid holiday. You’ve still got targets and deadlines. If a meeting is encroaching on your ability to be productive, should you be attending it at all? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of work from home?

When you do have meetings, make sure you’re very well-prepared. By this, we mean to have an agenda ready. Foresee the outcomes and be ready to start new steps following the meeting. If you come to a meeting unprepared, you will be wasting your time and everyone else’s.

6. Managing Slack

We all know them. Every team has them: The lazy ones. The careless ones. The ones who transfer their workload on a willing colleague. Managers tend to tolerate the less-productive members of the team as long as the work gets done. At times, it may even be necessary to maintain cordiality and positive morale.

But in a remote work and/or work from home environment, the setting is different.

Productivity and team morale will suffer if people are not held accountable. Your best employees will burn out. It’s inevitable.

Monitoring schedules or a “random” employee check-up won’t do any good. It builds mistrust and animosity. Instead, assign periodic targets based on individual capacity. Set milestones. Instead of updates, ask for progress.  If the willing colleague has enough work of her own, she’s unlikely to volunteer to do a ‘favor’.

It’s important for managers to take a step back here. What’s needed isn’t control, but accountability. Let your team members own their responsibilities. Resist the temptation to step in.

7. Keeping Employee Relations Healthy

Healthy-Employee-Relations

Picture this: Your office has a work from home policy. But it’s only selectively (read “On HR’s discretion”), applicable. Any guesses on who’s the most resentful? Team members forced to complete the same tasks, but without the option of remote work. That was once reality. The sentiment lives on.

A lack of connectivity can stir similar resentments. Remember, you’re not physically “there” to dispel misperceptions of favoritism. You have to communicate your impartiality and transparency.

A weak work from home policy can hurt team bonding if it doesn’t factor in the human element.

A lack of visibility can hurt trust. Especially if team members feel invisible in front of their supervisors. COVID-19 has imposed a universal form of anxiety on everyone. But that’s not how it’s seen. Employees’ need to feel appreciated for good work hasn’t changed.

Preoccupied as we are, it’s important to take time out and applaud work well done.

In a work from home setting, this is actually easier. Shoot out a mass email. Acknowledge an employee over a team call. How hard is this?

Your Zoom meetings can have a “Champions Roll Call,” to highlight good performance. With fair, transparent metrics, it can be a powerful way of maintaining high morale.

8. Bringing Culture Back

working-in-Office-Culture

Business culture is hard to define. But all businesses have some ingrained rituals and traditions. These manifest the core values of the business, and by definition, its culture.

Your business has some too. With a 100% remote work team, reinforcing those visual cues can be a challenge. More than cues, it’s the values associated with the visuals that risk falling into oblivion.

But this is reversible. And in a very positive way. Work from home can help keep memories of good times (and plans of better times) alive. Leadership plays the most important role here. The:

  • Visibility
  • Accessibility, and
  • Positivity

of the C-Suite strengthens corporate culture. They can preserve the most important values of the business, even in a crisis.

9. Setting The Right Targets

Goal-Setting

Most managers are comfortable allocating and measuring targets in a traditional work setting. But when the work from home policy comes into play, everything changes.

While demand-side factors aren’t in our control, we can do something about targets on the supply side.

Not everyone in your team will stick to a strict 9-5 schedule.  And in the work from home setting, you can’t make anyone do that either. The first challenge, then is: Creating flexible, yet visible targets.

Focusing on daily targets can get frustrating. Especially if team members clock in differently. Weekly targets ensure accountability and transparency.

Begin with the end in mind. Start by defining the desired outcome in one period, and then work back. Define quarterly goals, the hard-stops, the soft targets and the stretch goals. Now work those into monthly, biweekly and weekly milestones per individual.

The next challenge is monitoring these new targets. We wouldn’t recommend editable online sheets. They crowd out, often contain dirty data, and make tracking difficult. Use collaboration software instead. Most collaboration software solutions have the following in common. They’re:

  • Flexible
  • Accommodate many different kinds of data
  • Are well-equipped to flag items approaching/crossing deadlines
  • Highlight contribution per team member

Small teams (i.e. 20 members or less) can get the best functionality for free.

10. Get Creative On Contingencies

Contingency-Plan

The circumstances which forced roughly 30% of us to work from home were imperfect. This is a reality each one of us needs to accept. Your home office will also be imperfect. But don’t let that get to you. If the furniture is uncomfortable, or the charging sockets aren’t close by, improvise. Don’t let your surroundings get monotonous. When you feel dull, pick up your laptop and sit near a window.

This principle applies in equal measure to work-related contingencies. Some tasks are only achieved through onsite collaboration. Break such tasks down into smaller modules. Redesign processes by starting on the outcome and working backward. Surprise yourself with how many new approaches you come up with!

Work From Home Policy Conclusion

Xperti has always advocated using technology to make processes more efficient. We were advocates of remote work, and flexible work options even before the pandemic. We continue to seek ways of closing the gap between what technology can do, and how the world uses it.

Last month we announced the launch of our enhanced remote screening services. With that, we want to do our part in making work from home easier and more fruitful. For the top talent we work with, and the clients who seek them.

Author

Nayyara Rahman is a management and technology professional with a focus on digital services. Her work in integrating marketing and technology is aimed at making organizations more efficient, accountable and transparent. She is also an award-winning author and researcher whose contribution has been acknowledged on several prestigious international forums.

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