Learn about the importance of setting expectations and communicating with the main office.
- Often, confusion and disagreement can occur between a person working from home and the home office because there isn't a clear set of rules about how their work will be monitored and how they'll communicate with each other. If you work for a company that has an established track record and history of having employees who work from home, odds are they already have a set of ground rules and policies in place. If so, then it's wise to take a moment and read those policies once or twice so that you understand what's fully expected of you.
If you come across something you're unclear about, take a moment and ask your supervisor a few questions to ensure that you're on the same page with them. However, many companies are in the process of transitioning to having employees work from home especially smaller businesses. In these situations, they may lack clearly established ground rules. If that's your situation, I recommend scheduling a meeting with your supervisor to go through and find out what they expect from you while you're working from home.
Here are a few areas that you might want to discuss with them to get some clarity about what they want from you. First, have a conversation about your working hours. What hours of the day do they expect you to be online and available? Many of those who work from home are on salary. If that's your case, you likely have greater flexibility in your schedule yet there may be an unwritten rule from your company about when they want you to be available. Find out if there's any expectation about the hours when they want you around.
If that overlaps with your personal schedule, ask how often they expect that conflict to occur. Also, email response time is a common area of confusion. If your supervisor sends you an email, what is their expectation as to how soon you will reply to that email? This is because when everyone shares the same workplace, you can see whether the coworker is out their desk but when you're at home, they may wonder why you haven't replied as soon as they would have hoped.
Discuss how many hours is reasonable for each of you to expect the other person to reply. Getting on the same page about this will help you know what kind of email checking schedule you need to establish in your day. Additionally, consider the expectation around text messaging or online chat apps. Many people who work from home also connect to the office with instant messaging of some sort. Typically, the response time expectations are different than for email.
Discuss how quickly they want you to respond and what hours of the day they want you to leave that instant messaging app open. By the way, if the expectation is that they want you to always have that app open, it might not hurt to open a dialogue with them and suggest that perhaps you could have times of the day where you have it shut down. That way, you can do focused and uninterrupted work and get your best results for them. They may not agree to it but having the conversation opens the possibility in their mind.
In the long run, having down hours, hours in which people don't interrupt each other is far more productive than being constantly online. Finally, have a conversation with them to determine what you need to do to put their mind at ease. What I mean by this is many leaders are worried about having people work from home for the main reason that they think their people will be less productive when they do that. I've found that the opposite is true.
People tend to work harder while at home. However, the fear is still there. You could ask your supervisor a question like how will you evaluate if I'm a good worker for you? Put it in your own words. We're just trying to figure out what's the criteria that they have that determines if you're an effective employee while working from home. What you discover together may surprise you both. Taking a little time upfront to establish these ground rules and expectations with each other will go a long way toward increasing productivity and reducing conflict in the future.
- Creating a productive environment
- Creating a balanced schedule
- Using virtual meetings
- Staying responsive
- Balancing roles as a parent, caregiver, and professional
- Managing interruptions and emergencies at home