How to implement a work-from-home program

The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe has forced many organizations to implement a work-from-home program for the first time. Whether your organization is considering remote work as a temporary measure or possibly implementing it as a long-term option, this moment is an opportunity to learn.

“This is the greatest working from home experiment that the world has ever seen,” says Brandon Riggs, senior consultant at Perceptyx.

This post will help you find your footing and chart your course for implementing a work from home program.

Understand the goals for your organization’s work-from-home program

First, understand your goals for implementing a work-from-home program. Consider what you hope to achieve, and the possible impacts, both positive and negative, on your organization.  According to Riggs, “There are lots of different forces at play driving the decision to work from home. Each organization needs to think it through.”

Are you developing an ongoing program to give team members the option to work remotely or temporarily maintaining an organization that has been forced to work from home? According to Lance Cummins, president of fully remote company Nectafy, these scenarios require very different approaches.

Creating a temporary program

If you’re implementing a work-from-home program as a sudden but temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic, focus on the most essential functions of your business first, and expect to see a decline in productivity.

Shifting from onsite to remote is a delicate process, especially when it has to be done suddenly. Neither your systems nor your team will have as much the time as they need to adapt. “If you’re forced into this, lower your expectations and just survive,” advises Cummins.

For organizations with no choice but to work from home for the first time, this is a good chance to experiment. But keep in mind that this isn’t a normal situation. Don’t judge your team’s capacity to work remotely by how they perform now. The success of a work-from-home program comes with time, proper planning, and making a psychological shift to operate in a different way.

Creating a permanent work-from-home program

Developing a successful, ongoing work-from-home program requires creating a comprehensive policy to guide both your employees and your organization. Your policy needs to frame your program, support your employees with clear guidelines, and ensure your organization’s standards and goals are met.

Don’t expect to get it right immediately. Seek feedback from your team, continue to experiment, and adapt along the way.

When developing your policy, think through the following:

  • Which jobs and employees should be eligible to work from home?
  • What are the goals and expectations remote workers must fulfill?
  • How will you track performance or time worked?
  • What methods will the team use to communicate and share information?
  • What hardware or software will you provide?
  • Which expenses will be reimbursed?
  • What standards must at-home workspaces meet?
  • What standards are needed for confidentiality, security, and data protection?
  • Is there a dress code or code of conduct for remote workers?
  • Will you need to adjust your insurance policies?

Be flexible while you transition

Whether it’s temporary or permanent, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to implementing a work-from-home program. Finding the exact systems and styles that work for your organization and each member of your team will require testing, patience, and flexibility.

While your policy should standardize as much as possible, be prepared to work with everyone on your team to find what works best. Help workers who are going remote for the first time to navigate the challenges they face as they adapt.

“Flexibility and empathy are the most important things to start with,” says Abby Serino, account executive at ClearPoint Strategy. “The people who are really successful with making the switch are those who are committed to understanding they’re going to have to work on a case-by-case basis with individual situations.”

By striking a balance between giving clear guidelines and working with your team on a personal level, you can develop a tailored work-from-home program that works for your organization.

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