HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Work From Home (WFH)
Have you been contemplating the idea of having your employees work from home? This concept has never been more possible than it is now and it’s expected to be more common as time goes on. However, a work from home setup isn’t necessarily the best option for all organizations. This article will help you ask the right questions to determine if a working from home option could be right for your company.

What Is Work From Home (WFH)?

Work from home, also known as its abbreviation “WFH,” refers to employees performing their job duties from the location of their home rather than in the company office. Working from home can mean working there everyday or a combination of working from home part-time and working in the office part-time. This combination is also known as hybrid working.

What Are the Benefits of Work From Home for Employers and Employees?

There are numerous benefits of working from home for both employers and employees. Not every employee or employer is going to benefit from every aspect of this arrangement, which is why you should evaluate your organization to see which of the following benefits applies.
  • Work-life balance. Promoting a healthy work-life balance should be a top priority for employers. Working from home can help with this for a variety of reasons. Often working from home means employees are allowed a more flexible schedule. This frees up time for them to start and stop work when needed, run errands, cook meals, exercise, etc. Additionally, the comfort of one's own home can often be a safe space and help with employee mental health. When employees have a positive work-life balance they typically perform better at work as well.
  • Save money. Both employee and employer have opportunities to save money with a work from home structure. Employees can save money on meals from eating out, buying a professional wardrobe, work transportation, car maintenance and much more. Employers have the opportunity to save money on building fees, utilities, perks like free food and more.
  • Commute. Employees who commute to work can spend a significant portion of their day simply driving. A study by INRIX Inc. revealed that traffic congestion costs each American 97 hours and $1,348 a year. These costs are less than ideal for both employee and employer. Although some people may enjoy it, most people would rather avoid sitting in traffic during a long commute if possible. The more time saved by cutting out a commute means the more time employees are available to work.

What Are the Drawbacks of Work From Home for Employers and Employees?

While there are many benefits to working from home, there are some drawbacks as well. Each organization is unique, which means what benefits one may be a drawback to another. Knowing what the potential drawbacks are prior to implementing a work from home structure is imperative.
  • Distractions. Often working from home means employees are in an environment with more distractions than they would have in the office. Although some employees set up a “home office” it can be difficult to ignore distractions such as family members, pets, chores, television, and similar distractions that are only present in a home environment. These distractions can easily lead to less productivity.
  • Social isolation. Countless people know the struggle of social isolation brought on by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This can highly impact one’s mental health in a negative way. Working at home means employees aren’t going to be in the office each day and this often leads to a feeling of social isolation. Seeing team members over video just isn’t the same as physically being together in person. Many people need that human connection.
  • Loss of productivity. Although there are many people who are more productive while working from home, there are also many that aren’t. Whether it be from distractions, mental illness caused by social isolation, technical issues or even the lack of efficient communication, many factors of working from home can create a less productive employee. Having to message a co-worker or manager to ask questions every day often results in slower response times which can impact how quickly employees work. Additionally, setting up a work from home environment can bring on technical issues that one wouldn’t face in the office, or if they did, they would have an onsite technical support team to assist. Technical issues are often a setback for employees and can significantly impact productivity.

How to Know if Work From Home Is Right for Your Organization

Depending on the organization, some aspects of working from home may be benefits while others are drawbacks. It’s important to take into consideration all the possibilities that come with working from home. If necessary, it is possible to do trial runs with employees by letting them work from home temporarily to see how feasible of an option it is. Another option is to have open communication among company leadership and employees to discuss potential questions, concerns and suggestions.

You Have a Culture of Trust

Working from home means that employees have more freedom with the way they spend their working hours. Although all employers would love to have complete trust in all of their employees, it’s not always appropriate or easy to do. If you have a culture of trust and autonomy then you’re already well on your way to creating a successful work from home team.

Technology Capabilities

It’s obvious that having a workforce that works from home requires significant technology capabilities. Research what capabilities are needed for your organization to make this transition and assess if it's a possibility.

You’re Looking to Expand Your Talent Pool

Providing the option to work from home can expand your talent pool immensely by opening up positions to candidates outside of your local area. If you’re looking to expand your talent pool, then providing this option may do that. In addition to opening the location possibilities, the option to work from home is a desirable aspect of jobs that many candidates are drawn to.

How to Create and Implement a Work From Home Policy

When considering what should be included in a remote work policy, you should take the following into account:
  • Who can work from home?
  • What is expected of the employee?
  • What technology is required?
  • What will the company provide?
  • How do I monitor employees working from home?
We’ll go through each of these elements in turn.

Step 1: Decide Who Can Work From Home

Creating a work from home policy entails understanding and identifying the employees who can realistically work from home. For example, if a worker has to interact face-to-face with a customer or has to deliver products like food or supplies from one location to another, they’re not eligible to work from home. But employees who primarily work digitally from their computers won’t have a hard time working from home.You may take other factors into consideration when determining an employee’s eligibility to work remotely, like:
  • How long has an employee worked for your company?
  • Has the employee proven to be self-motivated?
  • Does the employee have access to a distraction-free work environment?
If you don’t want to see a drop in productivity or performance, you should only allow employees who have proven themselves to be dedicated self-managers to work from home.

Step 2: Determine What Is Expected of the Employee

Write a policy that details the standards that WFH employees are expected to meet. Outlining and communicating expectations through a written work from home policy will help employees understand what they should keep track of in their day-to-day activities. While some flexibility should be allowed, here are some general parameters your employees should be able to operate under:
  • Employees should be able to fulfill the same workload at home that they managed when working in the office.
  • Employees must complete their full hours (40 hours for full-time, or what was previously assigned for part-time workers).
  • Employees need to be available through email or other applicable messaging software during regular office hours.
  • Employees must attend scheduled meetings.
Business owners should check in with their employees about these expectations regularly. Depending on the needs of the employee, this could be daily, weekly, or twice a month.

Step 3: Make Plans About Technology

You can’t just jump into a work from home policy—there are practical factors, such as technology, to take into consideration. You’ll need to decide what technology you’ll be using company-wide, as well as make sure that remote employees have the technology they need. Required technology should encompass:
  • The software you’ll use to communicate with your employees, like Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts
  • The equipment needed to properly perform their tasks
  • A wireless internet connection
Some of your employees may prefer to have extra electronic equipment, like a second computer monitor or a wireless keyboard. Employers are not required to provide office supplies or furnishings for home offices, but it’s a nice gesture for employees who will be working from home more often than not. You may require these extra items to be purchased with their own funds, allow employees to purchase equipment and receive a reimbursement from the company, or you can allow them to bring home the equipment they used in the office.

Step 4: Decide What the Company Will Provide to At-Home Workers

Along with the optional equipment or furniture mentioned above, employers may also provide common office supplies, such as paper, writing utensils, and other items that will enhance a home office. You may also consider compensating employees for the increased energy costs at their home; while they’re saving money on gas or other travel expenses, they’re spending more on their internet and electricity bills. Employees who work from home are still eligible for their insurance and benefits packages. However, in-office perks, such as catered lunches, do not need to be replicated for remote workers.

Step 5: Set Up a Way to Monitor Employees Working From Home

With a work from home policy, you’ll no longer have the luxury of walking past an employee’s desk to check on their progress. That’s why it’s important to incorporate employee monitoring programs in your policy.The purpose of monitoring tools isn’t to make you a micromanager—it’s to help keep employees accountable for their work and promote transparency. There is plenty of software to make remote monitoring a breeze, like:
  • Time-tracking, to know what they’re doing and how long it takes them to complete their tasks
  • Project-managing applications, to help you keep track of what’s on an employee’s plate
  • Online calendars, so you know when they’re in meetings or otherwise occupied
Work with employees to have these applications set up before they begin working from home to avoid unnecessary headaches from technology.

Step 6: Roll Your Policy Out

Now that you’ve got all the details set up for your work from home policy, it’s time to get it up and running! The best way to do that is:
  1. Announce which employees are eligible to work from home.
  2. Set up a request and approval system for employees to apply to.
  3. Use this work from home policy template to tailor a plan that’s perfect for your business.

Best Practices for Managing Work From Home

Implementing a work from home structure for the first time has its challenges. It’s important to be aware of best practices prior to making this transition as well as keeping up with best practices as you continue the journey.

Set Clear Expectations

It’s important to set clear expectations when implementing a work from home structure. Tell your employees what your expectations of them are and inform them of what they can expect from you during this transition. Make sure managers communicate team-specific expectations. Some positions may require regular communication, a specific home office setup, internet capabilities and more.

Provide Tools for Success

Set your employees up for success by providing them with the necessary tools to achieve it. That may mean supplying physical equipment for their home office, tech support or even a monthly stipend for upgraded internet. Other forms of tools can look like access to articles, webinars, blogs, and more that teach about mental health and can guide your employees through this often unfamiliar experience.

Implement Consistent Communication

We all know that communication is vital to a successful team. Driving consistent communication among co-workers will ensure your teams don’t skip a beat when they aren’t in the office together.

Change Things Up

While working from home has many benefits, it can also get tiresome. After months of working without in-person interactions or a change of scenery, your team might grow tired of the repetition.It can be helpful to occasionally break out of the routine by trying something totally new. This could be anything that excites or energizes your team.Some teams decide to tackle massive projects in short amounts of time. These micro-sprints give teams 3-4 days to try to dissect, plan for, and execute on major projects, campaigns, or features. The whole team comes together to create a plan that includes everyone, working at capacity, for a short period of time. Initiatives like this can build team chemistry, enhance purpose, spark creative thinking, and perhaps most importantly, get people excited about work.Other teams might plan other activities that everybody can do individually at home and report back on. Whatever your company’s circumstances, try to think of fun ways to break up the monotony for your WFH employees.

Make Meetings Less Disruptive

The length of the work day has extended since working from home, and it’s mostly due to the increase in meetings. Technology like Zoom and Google Meet has done an excellent job of facilitating communication across remote teams. It’s never been easier to connect with a colleague from anywhere in the world. But all these meetings bring significant disruptions to our day.Work meetings are a necessary evil. They keep people informed, align expectations, and promote accountability. However, meetings also prevent real work from being accomplished. Here are a few ideas for giving people more time without interruptions:
  • Designate a “no meetings” day across your company. Pick a day (Wednesdays are good) and prohibit anyone in your company from scheduling a meeting then. A meeting-free day will signal to employees that they have nothing to inhibit them from diving into a deep state of work. No distractions. No interruptions. Just work.
  • Designate a block of “no meetings” hours. If your company can’t set aside an entire no-meeting day, consider creating a rule that limits meetings to certain times of day. For example, what if no one could schedule a meeting between 2 and 5 pm? This would allow the entire company to focus solely on their work for at least three hours every day, with the promise of zero interruptions.
  • Schedule 24 hours in advance. If the previous suggestions won’t work for you, you could simply implement a policy where all meetings have to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. This way, an employee doesn’t have to worry about unexpected disruptions or distractions during the day. The calendar they see in the morning will be the calendar they see in the afternoon.

How to Help Employees Work Productively at Home

As an HR department, and as a company, helping employees maintain productive work-from-home schedules should be top of mind. Do not assume that employees have or will figure this out on their own. Help your employees work from home effectively by giving them tools, tips and advice to make the most of each day. To help employees be productive, encourage them to:

Maintain Regular Work Hours

One of the most important things you can do when working remotely is to set expectations for hours worked. When transitioning to remote work, some employees may feel the need to “always be on,” and they have a hard time drawing clear lines around the beginning and end of their work day. Other employees might see the opportunity to work from home and misinterpret it as a “work when I want” policy. The best thing you can do is make it clear from the beginning what hours are expected (and, if necessary, outline when those hours are to be worked).

Take Scheduled Breaks

Employees working from home will drive themselves crazy if they never take a break. Emphasize the importance of regularly scheduled breaks and encourage employees to take them consistently. These breaks are good for both body and mind and will contribute to employee productivity.

Organize Their Calendar

It’s difficult to be productive when you stroll into your home office in the morning and begin the day uncertain about what you should be working on. Maintaining and organizing a calendar is a great way to plan out your day, and it helps keep you accountable. Consider having employees share their daily calendar with their managers. This way, a manager can check in on an employee and see what they plan to do at any given hour of the day.

Minimize Distractions

Distraction is one of the biggest challenges we face when working from home. To help employees work from home more productively, discourage behavior that lends itself to distraction. This can include limiting time spent on social media, limiting time spent texting friends, or limiting time spent watching television or playing video games while working. How do you know if employees are being distracted while working? Ask them. Don’t be afraid to broach the topic in regular one-on-one interviews. Once you understand what distraction they’re struggling with, help them create a plan to minimize it.

Communicate Regularly With Their Team

We’ve heard from many employees and company leaders that team communication is one of the biggest challenges they face while working from home. As a leader, do not assume that because some people are doing a great job communicating that everyone is doing a great job. Ask managers to try and have daily communication with each individual who reports to them as well as daily or weekly meetings with the entire team.

Seek Support for Mental Health

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, America is seeing a massive increase in mental health-related issues as people struggle to process their new world. Maintaining good mental health is one of the most critical things an employee can focus on. Good mental health leads to better performance, more productive work, more enjoyable work, and higher retention rates. Many companies are now including services like an employee assistance program in their benefits package. These programs give employees access to mental health professionals whenever they’re in need. These programs are confidential and provide employees a safe space to express themselves and improve their mental health.

Turn On Cameras During Meetings

By having their cameras on, employees can pick up on the many non-verbal cues that are missed when they can’t see the person they’re speaking with. After all, it’s been said that around 55% of the meaning derived from communication is non-verbal. Putting names to faces, building relationships with real people (and not just voices behind a black square), and interacting face-to-face virtually is good for all of us.

Share Feedback

It’s important for company leaders and employees to share feedback with each other regularly. This feedback should include ideas for how to work from home more productively, as well as specific ways employees can improve. Creating a regular feedback loop will help the entire company work more effectively and will produce amazing results.

Tools to Make Working From Home Easier

It’s crucial to provide employees with the necessary tools when working from home. By doing this you can avoid potential drawbacks to this structure, empower employees and create a more successful organization.

Communication Platforms

Having effective communication tools is essential to a successful work from home organization. Communication tools are used for instant messaging, video conferencing, emailing and more. Examples of these types of tools include Google Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WebEx.

Organizational Tools

It’s important to have a centralized location where teams can share files, see updates and stay organized. There are many tools that can do this but some may integrate with your current tools better than others. Examples of these tools include Dropbox, Trello, Google Workspace, Microsoft Office, and Evernote.

Security Software

Keeping confidential information secure is hard enough when working in the office. When employees have the freedom to work from home, the security risk grows and can be harder to control. Educating employees on data security is essential, and utilizing tools will greatly help. Examples of these tools are a VPN (which allows employees to connect to a secure network no matter where they are), authentication apps, antivirus software, remote wiping and so much more. These tools will give you peace of mind that the sensitive or confidential data employees are working with isn’t compromised while they are away from the office.
Natalie De Spain

Natalie De Spain

Natalie graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Human Resources Management in 2020. Following her schooling, she completed an additional HR internship and is currently an Associate HR Operations Specialist. She loves working in HR and fully intends to further her education alongside her career.
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