Cegos Asia Pacific employs Work From Home policies. Our Director of Business Operations, Meng Bannister, took some time to share with us her experience in managing Work From Home employees.
1) Some managers believe that a lack of supervision and monitoring encourages employees who are not disciplined to skive. Do you agree? What do you think can be done to overcome this problem?
Work from home policies give employees the flexibility and independence to be autonomous in the way they manage their work which can be particularly useful for organisations that operate on different time zones. It can be tempting to switch off or get distracted when not in a typical work/office environment. The individual must be able to detect when this is happening and have the ability to prioritise and shift work tasks ensuring they make choices that always have work productivity front and centre. So yes, it requires discipline and without this can ultimately lead to skiving if not addressed. This can be effectively managed by encouraging the individual to work from a shared space with other employees. You can also address this during the recruitment phase, setting clear expectations and then performance managing where the individual does not meet those expectations. In my opinion, often a conversation highlighting your observations as their manager, can be enough to trigger a positive response.
2) When Work From Home policies are in place, there tends to be lesser opportunities for interaction amongst employees. Do you think this is a problem, and how do you address it?
Having Work From Home policies in place can mean that team members feel isolated or distanced from their colleagues. At Cegos we hold regular informal lunches to catch up on important business, discuss projects where we need support and jointly identify opportunities for us to work together in the coming week. We also organise team get togethers and activities where time permits. We will soon be doing an Escape Room activity where we have to work together in 60 minutes to find solutions to questions to crack codes and free us all from a locked room. We’re looking forward to that one! This kind of activity will help to give us insights into one another’s behaviours – how we think, cope under stress etc. The key is to find something that is engaging yet insightful for your employees.
3) Some employees would argue that Work From Home policies make employees happier and therefore, more productive. In your experience, do you find this to be true?
The feedback certainly indicates that. In my own experience, I know my team appreciates being able to work comfortably as and where they choose. For example, when they are unwell they can rest at home and complete their work in a space where they aren’t spreading germs or being exposed to noise at a time when they are likely to prefer the quiet and privacy of home. It also means they can plan for personal appointments again, with the emphasis on balancing this with hours that may not fit into a regular standard day.
At Cegos, being a global company, we need to be flexible. Often our colleagues are only coming online in the late afternoon so at times we need to be able to take a call or respond to emails after dinner even though our friends and family may have already ‘clocked off’ for the day. That being said, the opportunities that come with working at Cegos, are like no other so it makes it all worthwhile in the end. And there’s a lot of satisfaction knowing that you’ve helped to resolve something for your team overseas.
4) What is the recipe for a successful Work From Home policy, and what type of companies do you think it might be more suitable for?
Work From Home policies are certainly suited to global companies like Cegos. We don’t really have a choice but to be available outside of business hours given the different time zones we work across. When you’re managing international projects that stretch across borders, you need a team who are flexible yet disciplined enough to take carriage, responsibility and ownership of their work priorities.
The success of a Work From Home policy depends on the individual team members and whether they can work in an environment where they don’t have a manager or supervisor ‘watching’ them. There is certainly a degree of trust required on the employers’ side. Where that trust is broken it certainly warrants investigation. This is where the employer needs to be prepared to be firmer regardless of how the employee may perceive things. At the end of the day, it is the employer who makes the decision to have a Work From Home policy in place and it is the employer who can decide to alter that also.
5) As a manager, do you find it difficult to assess the capabilities of your employees who work from home?
No. I have regular (daily) conversations and exchanges with my team. I meet with them at least once a week to discuss their work priorities and to see where I can offer support. We undergo performance reviews like any other organisation. I am fortunate to have a team who are very open and honest with me so where something isn’t working, we work together to find a solution to effectively address the issue at hand.
We hope this post gives you further insights on how to manage off-site employees. To learn more about management, please refer to our Management Development courses here: http://www.cegos.com.sg/category/learning-courses/management-development/
Read our previous blog post to find out how you can stay productive while working from home.
Do comment and share with us your experience with Work From Home policies too!