How to Make Working from Home (WFH) Work!
Whether all of your employees are in one city or you’re spread across the world, now more than ever is the time to figure out how to ensure your company is set up for employees to work from home.
At Perfect Search, we’ve always offered Fridays as a work from home day, and more recently, switched to giving employees the option to work three days a week from home, so thankfully we were set up and ready to move to a fully remote schedule when COVID-19 rendered it necessary. We’ve definitely had some struggles making remote work successful, but hopefully, the things we’ve learned along the way will help other companies work efficiently right from the start.
Here are four tips on how we’ve made WFH work:
1. Have the right tools in place
Your employees need more than just a physical place to work and a computer on which to actually do that work. A company needs to invest in tools that will foster easy and efficient communication, project management, and team camaraderie. Obviously, necessary tools will vary by company and industry, but here are some that we’ve found work well for our remote team:
- Video Conferencing – While there are a ton of video conferencing tools out there, we’ve found that Zoom conferencing has the best video/call quality and an impressive array of features for a reasonable price. Zoom allows you to record calls, which we’ve been able to take advantage of when employees give presentations that we can use for future trainings. Additionally, Zoom has a feature called ‘Breakout Rooms’ that we’ve used in all-company meetings to break employees into smaller groups for brainstorming sessions before pulling everyone back in together. If you’re instead looking for a solid, free video conferencing tool, we’ve found that Google Hangouts can get the job done, though there are limitations.
- Team Communication – Perfect Search had an open office layout where people were encouraged to chat openly with their coworkers or slide their chair over to a peer’s desk to ask a question. Now that this physical ease of communication is gone, it’s imperative that our online communication is streamlined and easy. For us, that ease has come through Slack, where we’ve created communication channels for every department and client.
Tip: If using Slack, be sure to look into the apps that it partners with, as there’s a ton of cool functionality (like syncing Google Docs) that will make your life a lot easier.
- Project Management – While your company may have already had a project management software or process in place, moving to a fully remote setting could be a good time to reevaluate what tool(s) you use. We use Basecamp for general project management, which allows us to streamline workflows, assign out to-dos, and house all necessary documents in one easy to find place.
- Privacy – If privacy is a big concern for your company, the good news is that there are a ton of solutions to safeguard any sensitive information and make working from a home a possibility. (Of course, there are always exceptions to this, like if you need a security clearance to do your job. You probably can’t work from home, sorry.) Since this will differ for every company, it’s important to make sure that your bases are covered and that employees are well educated on all processes. You can check out this article for more specific security tips for employees working from home.
2. Employee accountability
It’s easy to fall into an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when working remotely from your coworkers, and without the right processes in place, projects will start taking longer to complete, to-dos will slip through the cracks, and it won’t be clear as to why that’s happening.
Ultimately, it’s going to come down to optimizing existing processes for a remote culture and having managers ensure that those processes are stuck to.
Here are some more specific steps that managers can take to hold their teams accountable:
- More frequent check-ins – While this could initially feel like micromanaging, what you may not realize is that you were likely doing these check-ins in person, anyway. A start of the day “Hi – How are you doing? What’s on your plate for today?” message puts the onus on the employee to identify priorities for the day and shows that you care about their role and the work they’re doing. Plus, at the next day’s check-in, you can see how far they got in the previous day’s tasks!
- Structured meetings – At Perfect Search, we have a very specific meeting flow for department meetings, which means that they’re efficient and have clear expectations for each participating member. We always start with good news, which helps set the tone and gets people to learn things about their coworkers. We then have clearly tracked data points that hold each employee accountable to certain performance numbers. We then move into any high-level items that people want to call out and then end with any topics that need to be discussed further. At the end of the meeting, each employee has specific to-dos that they know that they are solely accountable for. This structure may vary based on the needs of your company, but having a clear structure and well-defined action items for each employee will help the meeting run efficiently.
- Figure out how to make existing things work remotely – Don’t get rid of things just because it seems like too much of a hassle. For example, we always had a weekly end of day Thursday meeting that was part happy hour, part education time, and part team-building. Instead of just getting rid of this Perfect Search staple, we figured out how to make it work!
The Perfect Search Thursday team meeting.
3. Set your employees up for success
Don’t expect all of your employees to immediately take to fully remote work and execute flawlessly. Some employees may require a little more of a learning curve to maintain the same output. At Perfect Search, we’ve made a concerted effort to address any potential roadblocks or difficulties that employees may have and help provide them with the necessary tools to make remote work a success.
Walk your employees through specific tips and tricks for working remotely, like:
- Maintain a consistent work schedule every day
- Change out of your pajamas and into work clothes
- Have a designated work area
- Avoid easy distractions, like your phone or the tv
- Be okay with taking breaks
- Give each employee a budget to help set up their home area (i.e. let employees purchase a desk, chair, keyboard, extra monitor, etc.)
4. Culture is just as important as ever – so find other ways to connect
Just because your employees are physically apart doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain a strong company culture – in fact, it’s even MORE important to prioritize this with a remote culture.
Here are a few fun initiatives that Perfect Search has launched:
- Cameras on for all company meetings – it’s been really nice to see everyone’s face on calls, and sometimes we even get cameos from people’s pets!
- Virtual happy hours – As previously mentioned, every Thursday the entire team gets on Zoom to cheers with a drink, have all of the cats wave at each other, and participate in a fun presentation given by an employee!
- Fun slack channels – Slack allows you to create any type of specific slack channels, so our employees have really taken advantage of this! Currently, we have a “Perfect Search Memeia” (get it?!) channel where people share funny memes that they’ve come across, and a recipe channel, book channel, and music channel for people to swap any relevant items that they’ve been enjoying.
Interested in learning more about making a remote culture work? Check back to read more in our Work from Home series! Better yet, if you’re looking for a digital marketing agency with a rockstar team that is killing it remotely, contact us!
Laura Cain is a University of Chicago alum who hails from Mandeville, Louisiana. If she could have her own store, she would sell sandwiches on really fancy bread, and the one thing she can’t live without is ice cream (seriously).