Many companies are struggling with how to implement working from home and also how to run their businesses successfully without everyone showing up in the office every day. At the moment most companies are running “ad hoc” systems while Covid is around and hope that when the crisis is over all will return to normal, but it will not. If only on one basis, that not having an office or a very small office saves enormous amounts of money.
The Virtual Office Group have been leading players in helping companies to enable ‘Working from home’. The Virtual Office service was invented in 1992 and in the following year a consultancy to help businesses implement Flexible Working (working from home WFH). It was formed with people from Digital who at that time were the leading experts on Flexible Working.
The new office workers
The people who have been sent home to work can be broken into three categories:
- Those who love working from home and never want to go to the office again
- Those that hate working from home, they really want to go back to working in the office full time
- Those who want to work at home part time.
Operating without an office
The most important thing when creating a company that does not use an office is that all work must be project orientated. This means that management must be based on performance and achieving objectives and not by “present-ism” (i.e. showing up at the office on time and leaving late).
This puts burdens on management, as suddenly you must manage in a more thoughtful way: everyone is now a sub-contractor! The most important thing is, that if there is group who work near the boss they must not create a clique who treat the home workers as second class citizens. Every email or communication that includes home workers must inform all, with emails everyone in the project must be included (ccd). However, it is critical that these people are not included in emails that are of no relevance to them.
With the right team behind them, companies can exist without an office. Without an office companies can recruit a team where geography no longer exists. They can recruit people all over the globe and effortlessly cover all time and day differences to offer a 24/7 service. We have all discovered “Zoom” meeting that can include people from all over the world, but some admittedly, need to get up in the middle of the night!
There are two huge related problems: the first is how to inculcate new joiners into the culture of the company, how to teach them and enable them to socialise with other members of staff. The other problem is to build and maintain the culture of a company.
If your team is located in one general geographic area, then the best way is to arrange an all day meeting at a mutually convenient location such a pub where there is good parking (Covid rules pertaining). Everyone must attend these meetings which should start by presentations, then lunch and afterwards there should be free time (you cannot go home) to get to know each other, mingle and explore ideas.
If that is not possible then Zoom meetings will be the norm.
The key to success
The key to success in this new environment is to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing and have the resources to do what they need to do to accomplish their tasks.
People will be assessed on four things
- Honesty (we cannot see you so we need to know you are telling truth)
- Performance (we need you to perform)
- Punctuality (you must deliver on time)
- Charm (you need your personality to shine: you are working remotely)
It is critical that there is no supervision of remote workers as to how they perform or when they do their work; all they have to do is deliver on time.
Many people think that remote workers will skive off and not do a good day’s work. This the mentality of treating workers as children not as adults. It turns out that most people given responsibility take charge of their lives and do so admirably. The challenge is to make sure they do not work too hard. It is critical that they only work the hours that they would in the normal office, not start work when they would have started out commuting and finish late at night. They should take time off to exercise and do chores as long as the work gets done.
Address these things for success
You must make certain that your remote workers have a proper working environment. There is already legislation on workstation comfort etc. There has to be someone at the heart of the organisation who is concentrating on the emotional and health issues that may be cropping up. This is generally not the boss. There must be arrangements for technical support for remote workers and also systems in place to protect the organisation from fraud and hacking.