Question: I want to start letting my employees work from home. What risks should I be aware of and how can I avoid them? (name one risk)
Question by: Craig
Lack of Social Interaction
"While offices do provide a lot of distractions, they also provide much needed social interaction with other people. When you have employees working from home, try to provide online equivalents of that social interaction, be it a passive instant messaging platform, a chat room that's always open, regular video calls or something similar."
Productivity -- It's Gone!
"I recently allowed my top employee to work one day a week from home, but only after five years of working together and learning how good of a self-starter she was. The risk with this was not being able to see her in front of me and knowing if she was being truly efficient. Have employees keep logs so you can measure their productivity both in and out of the office."
"Work hours will adjust -- sometimes, by the day. Instead of fighting this trend, I adapted my company culture and expectations. I stopped focusing on hours worked and emphasized results -- deadlines are crucial here. I also told my employees that they may have work obligations arise during unusual hours (early morning/late night). We're more productive and less stressed!"
Latent Effects on Everyone
"Most people worry about the employees' productivity, and that will be affected when you allow them to work from home. What people forget -- which in fact has a bigger impact -- is how it affects everyone else, like their co-workers and management. Only certain types of employees should be allowed to work from home -- self-managed employees, and those who work on solo projects."
"One of the most important elements to success for a business is teamwork and collaboration. Companies today must inspire employees, empower them to step up, and create an atmosphere of individual and collective achievement. When employees work from home, much of that atmosphere dissipates, which lowers morale and motivation."
Loss of Motivation
"It's no secret that when you "work from home" it's much easier to get sidetracked from the work you need to get done. Motivation must come from the leader. Stay in touch with them -- whether it's meeting up for coffee to discuss issues, via Skype or having them come in at least 1-2 days a week to the office. Don't let them have a chance to fall into the slump."
The Danger of Distractions
"They will be everywhere: beautiful weather, TV, kids, pets, etc. Your employees will have to declare a part of the home as their office -- an area that is quiet and free from disturbances and distractions. A place where they can sequester themselves and focus. That office must also be respected as a quiet work zone by those that share the home."
Where's the Water Cooler?
"We don't realize how much we gather information from overheard phone calls and lunchtime chit-chat. These elements are missing in a virtual workplace. My team spans from Hawaii to New York, and we avoid this risk by using Yammer to post what we're doing throughout the day. Overcommunicate!"
Availability Is Essential
"I think the true risk to letting employees work remotely is availability. You should have made the right hiring choice to get the work done, no matter where your employee is. But if you need that employee on hand right away or want to riff some ideas back and forth, you lose that when your employees start working from home."
"Working from home has huge benefits, especially if it is helping to reduce your overhead. A risk is the lack of oversight in the immediate work environment, leading to uncertainty about work completion and consistency. Therefore, you must spell out guidelines and actions in detail that you will hold them accountable to. Once trust is established, a great mutually beneficial arrangement may arise."
You Might Lose the Loop
"One of the things I've noticed from running a business with an entirely virtual team is that keeping everyone in the loop can be both a blessing and a curse. In the office, you can directly ask a person directly a question, whereas in email, you might "cc" the whole team and cause more inbox chaos. We use Basecamp to keep messages related to projects organized for the people involved in them."
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