What are some best practices for teams working remotely for the first time? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
From a management standpoint, three key ingredients to shifting to working from home are clarity, alignment and trust.
As to clarity, employees work at their best when their employers communicate clear guideposts and ground rules for working remotely. Although some employers will be comfortable sending everyone home with their laptop and saying, go forth and be productive, we recommend employers be more specific. That’s why employers should consider implementing a written “work from home” policy. A good policy will generally communicate expectations around hours of work, reachability, how and when employees should be in contact with their manager or subordinates, and reimbursement of office expenses.
For instance, a policy might require that employees are available by phone and messaging app during their regular in-office hours and respond to messages within a certain time frame. It may also require that employees check in with their managers at the close of each workday to share results from the day.
It’s also important for work from home policies to specify how expenses related to working from home will be dealt with. Employers should consider whether employees will incur reasonable and necessary expenses while working from home and what the reimbursement process should be, if any. Some states mandate reimbursement for these kinds of expenses, but it’s a good practice to cover such costs even if it’s not required by law. Without guidance, some employees may overspend on setting up their home office, only to find out that those expenses won’t be covered. It’s best to get ahead of those issues by setting expectations and either limiting set-up expenses to a certain dollar amount or requiring pre-approval for any purchases that exceed a certain threshold.
The second ingredient is alignment. It’s important for managers to align with their employees on what success looks like, how it will be measured, and the values employees are expected to uphold. Alignment on these three dimensions is always important, but particularly so in a remote working environment, when a manager has less visibility into their employees’ work. In a remote context, managers often need to shift from evaluating and coaching their employees’ work based on activities to doing so based on outcomes. This is a healthy and empowering transition — it makes managing much easier and enables employees to exercise their own judgment on how to best use their time and tools to achieve the agreed-upon outcomes. But it depends on strong alignment between the manager and employees on what those outcomes are and how they will be measured.
As to trust, working remotely often requires a leap of faith on all sides. As I mentioned above, managers do not have a direct line of sight into their employees’ activities, and therefore need to communicate a sense of trust and responsibility to their employees. This is especially true during the initial transition period. Working from home requires some adjustment, and particularly in the middle of this crisis, a lot of people find themselves at home with kids, spouses, partners and roommates — and no home office. In addition, many of our normal processes, comfort zones or outlets for stress have been changed or closed off entirely. A manager needs to maintain high expectations for their employees, both for their employees’ development and their organization’s, but they also need to recalibrate the scale and extend compassion to those who may be struggling with the transition.