What this post is about
- Not every employee (and not every company) is cut out for permanent home office
- Many colleagues struggle to keep structures, stick to routines, and meet deadlines – clearly defined work hours can help (and will benefit the work-life-balance, too)
- Discuss projects, priorities, and goals on a regular basis and with the whole team
- Show every team member that you trust them completely
Most of us have been there: stuck at home. Working from home. The question of how to implement the home office concept polarizes the world of work. While one side speaks of self-determination and increased productivity, work in one's own four walls is a minefield of distractions for others.
Working from home requires more than just the focus and concentration of the employee. Every organization that is open to progress should design framework conditions that allow collaboration on a level of trust.
Every successful home office job starts with the personal (self-)assessment of character. The basic attitude and character of the employee say a lot about whether work far from colleagues and superiors is still perceived as a duty or whether they have a special need for personal exchange. (If you do, don’t worry – it’s a good thing!)
To make home office work, the employee should be reliable, responsible, honest, and be able to keep deadlines. Personal initiative and proactivity complement the character portfolio. If you prefer to be delegated and receive clear tasks and orders (and yes, many people do), you might want to reconsider working from home.
For employers, the step into home office is a great leap of faith and shows strong trust in their employees. Measures that underpin this trust should by no means be seen as surveillance or restriction of employees. Time management tools or hourly surveys create a routine that brings advantages to both sides.
To ensure that the employee is available when needed, it is important to maintain regular working hours. By logging into time recording programs or activating instant messengers, employees and colleagues can set their status as "busy" or "available". This shows when they are ready for meetings or inquiries and when they will react to emails promptly.
Also, it is important for teams that are in different locations to have regular meetings. These should be goal-oriented meetings that act as updates and also determine the further project steps for the following periods.
The definition of home office is often confused with the myth that employees must be available 24/7. Anyone who has ever been a victim of this misconception knows that this claim is by no means true. Staff need their beauty sleep! And (most) managers know it. Compliance with working hours includes the freedom not to have to answer emails after work and to reject phone calls.
If you receive a message in the evening and don’t reply until the next morning is legitimate and important for your work-life balance. No one would expect anything else if the same scenario were to occur in the office. Colleagues and supervisors should follow this rule on both sides so that the freedom of the home office is not degraded to a permanent on-call availability.
To ensure security on both sides and to stay productive, it makes sense to agree on project goals. It’s like a deal: if your boss offers you the freedom to work from home, you make sure your performance stays the same and that your tasks are completed.
It is up to each company to decide whether a formal document is necessary to record such agreements. At the very least, send an email with all the tasks, which can be referred to by both parties. This way, it’s justified if the supervisor checks on the progress - and employees don’t feel like they are micro-managed.
However, all of the above-mentioned possibilities for creating the framework conditions for a successful home office concept are based on one important foundation: there is no room for distrust and doubts about the employee and his work ethic. Those who believe that their colleagues are only efficient within the office space are mistaken: "invisible" workers are fully-fledged employees.
Framework conditions for the home office create clarity and structure - for employers and employees. In the best case, they are discussed clearly, so that tasks and expectations are communicated and recorded individually at all times. Organizations can successfully start home office by defining do's and don'ts. In the end, everyone benefits! And collegiality and teamwork are no longer a question of physical proximity. After all, we’re close at heart, right?