Working Remotely: Success or Failure?

So here we are two-plus years after the start of the pandemic. Overnight we had to pivot and figure out how to work from home, how to manage staff working from home, how to keep everyone safe and healthy, all the while wondering how long this would last! So, what did we learn?

It takes a unique person to work from home, stay productive, stay on focus, and know how to take care of themselves. Some of us didn’t know we would need boundaries, so we made ourselves available 24/7 to our family and co-workers without considering the subsequent burn out. Others were overwhelmed with anxiety, ‘frozen’ in place, unable to pull away from the news reports, how many were sick, how many lost their lives, the dwindling staples at the store, and the visual reminder of masked faces everywhere we went.

Still others wanted to try out this ‘work from home’ thing anyway and here was the chance. They soon found out how quickly they could put on a few pounds, run up credit cards with online shopping, be pulled into daytime TV, and succumb to constant distractions pulling their attention away from their work. Maybe it was the kitchen table littered with textbooks and homework papers, acting as a make-shift classroom. No one could meet with friends—children or adults—let alone get to the gym, shopping, or other routines outside the house. And now we had to cook!

For our clients, some were scrambling because their home computer just wasn’t up to the task to work from home, whether it was the computer’s physical resources, operating system, screens (were you used to two of them?), or the internet speeds! If the office had an on-premise server, this might have been the first time you needed remote access for so many people, and some of the remote connection options were not safe or secure. We had a few vendors and clients who couldn’t get into their office buildings to collect checks to deposit, check stock to print payroll, let alone AP invoices to process. Then there were all the new rules to track and government-ordered benefits to pay when our teams or their families were sick, and what kind of info we would need to report these benefits so we could get credit later.

Working from home—a success or a failure? It might depend on what type of person you are, who’s asking the question, and what you think makes it ‘successful’ or not. For our client owners and managers, we have a few recurring themes to share:

Over and over again I hear clients say they want their staff to ‘own’ their work, outcomes, projects. I think we need to look in the mirror—they are not owners and they really aren’t looking for that kind of responsibility and weight on their shoulders. It’s absolutely reasonable for them to take responsibility to do a great job—you are paying them; but to expect them to do more is just not realistic, or fair.

All of our clients have deliverables and an expectation for the productivity their teams need in order to meet the client contract, the promised pay and benefits to employees, and profit for the company both for its continued health and to make the ownership burden worth the challenges. With these goals in mind, having Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place to monitor productivity and results is so important. With a remote work force, you cannot control their surroundings, but you can help them structure their day and set boundaries so they can be successful and take pride in their work. How you stay connected and monitor results is different, but it’s still your job.

Rather than worry about unproductive work time or turning into a micro-manager with an ulcer, figure out how you can track employees’ productivity! What outcomes—how many bids, production rate based on crew size, financial reports due? Then get tracking!

So, working from home—successful? Is the jury still out? We are confident this is NOT going away. We are social beings and we need to be around people. We’re pretty sure the trend will swing back a bit toward center, but working remotely is here to stay. What can you do to make it successful? How can you take advantage of the many benefits? How can technology help you succeed in this new adventure? – CMW