Q: How do I effectively manage my employees who are working from home?
A: Normally, before establishing a work-from-home (WFH) arrangement with an employee, some level of planning occurs. This represents the time to establish expectations: how much time spent in the office vs. home; how will meetings and communication occur; and so on. Most importantly, for the arrangement to work, specific performance measures and expectations must exist.
Today, many people suddenly find themselves managing, being managed or both in WFH situations. Obviously, this presents unique challenges.
Foundationally, managers should consider what performance measures appear in current employee evaluations. For salaried workers (those most likely to WFH), few of those measures cover “face time,” i.e., is the employee in the office from 9 to 5.
Exceptions may be workers whose time gets billed to clients, but these people already know how to quantify performance.
So this means that most of the measures of employee performance likely include aspects tied to the actual work. If the deliverables continue to appear in timely fashion, do you care if the person completed the work during the business day or after midnight? Probably not.
Certainly, WFH requires a degree of self-discipline, which varies by individual. As a manager, you already know which employees need that extra push. For those folks, you may want to revisit the performance measures and discuss what new actions the employee will need to take to ensure progress.
Consider things like daily video conference check-ins; weekly task completion reports; and even new team tasks, so the less motivated engage with others more. The line between guiding someone through a new WFH approach and micromanaging may be thin, so make sure to dialogue with all distance workers to support real work.
Finally, remember that any new working model takes time to settle in. There will be challenges, but once a rhythm gets established for you and the employees, it will be just another reorganization of workspaces.
Mike Porter is the faculty director of the MS in health care innovation at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.