Managing WFH

How to make sure homeworkers aren’t just ‘lazy gits”

Since Covid – and that’s the last time in this blog I’m going to use that word, I promise – more people are regularly working from home than ever before.

There’s a tonne of reasons as to why working from home (WFH) has become an accepted working option for so many…

From your business point of view, it might be that there just isn’t the skilled workforce in your area and so you’ve had to cast the recruitment net further afield. Or, it might be that you don’t actually have office space to accommodate your team or want the additional cost of premises.

And from the employee point of view, WFH is often seen as a HUGE benefit… No more dreaded commutes stuck in traffic adding hours and a bucketload of stress to their day. There’s the money saved on fuel and public transport – though the rising energy bills might counteract any savings there. More often than not, though, it’s simply about a better work-life balance. Be it working parents being able to pick up their young kids from school or any other personal circumstances, commitments, hobbies or relationships that now have a chance of happening.  All because what was commuting time is now their own time and they aren’t so frazzled when they log off from their laptop.

If you’re struggling with recruitment and retention or just want to be an amazing employer of choice – you must seriously consider WFH as an option.

Work-life balance is viewed so highly in fact that employees are choosing WFH job offers that pay less than office-based jobs.

And don’t ever forget – a happy team, means a productive team as well as happy customers. And happy customers mean revenues that will make you smile… You catch my drift?

So, is there a catch? Well, the arrogant Alan Sugar – (he’ll hate not being called Lord, he he!) – has said “a large percentage of people who work from home are lazy gits”.

This dinosaur mentality – and unfortunately, Sugar’s not the only one to think this – is that working from home means skiving. Instead of blasting out the work they’re paid to do, they’re sitting on the sofa in their pjs watching Phil and Holly on the box and generally taking the p*ss.

But this is simply not the case for the majority of homeworkers. In fact, in a recent 2022 survey over half of those working from home said they actually completed work quicker than they would have in an office because of fewer distractions.

And, if a team member’s productivity does decline after moving to working from home – then, in the main, it’s their manager who’s to blame. Here’s what you need to do to make it work:

  • Set the scene – before agreeing and starting someone on WFH – there should always be an agreement and lots of support in place. The best solution for this is to have a Working from Home policy. It should include everything from channels of communication to what to wear (for video calls with team and customers). You should also carry out a working from home risk assessment together.
  • Provide all the tools – make sure they have all the tech and a secure internet connection needed to carry out their role. Can they access all the company files, hardware and software and do they know who to contact for IT support? Agree the routes of communication to be used (Telephone? Teams for quick questions and chats and email for work updates and queries?)
  • Provide clarity – make it clear what the deliverables are – just as if they were sat in front of you. Focus on the deliverables – not how they get there.
  • Teamwork makes the dream work – still make time for getting the team together – remote is better than nothing. Make sure someone chairs the meeting – so that everyone gets to speak. Quieter individuals are often happier to let the big mouths have all the attention – and this is even more possible in a virtual meeting.  And please, allow some time before the meeting starts for general chit chat. Use this time to check how they are really feeling and to bond as a team.
  • To. Know. Your. Team – Show interest in what they’ve done at the weekend, ask how the kids are (if they have any!) or what their hobbies are. You’d normally do this over a morning cuppa in the office – you don’t have that remotely so you need to make extra effort. Then, should their mental health be suffering you are in a better place to notice it and support them. And they’ll feel more confident coming to you with a problem. Working from home has many benefits but it can be lonely and some people will find the isolation is not for them.
  • Check in – this bit is key… Check in with them frequently. Hold meetings via Teams or Zoom so that you can see their expressions and emotions – emails just don’t cut the mustard when it comes to building a relationship and judging someone’s state of mind. Diarise these catch ups in advance and make sure they happen. And be clear in your communication. If you’re unsure they’ve grasped what you are asking, ask them to summarise it back to you.

Having all these processes in place means both you and your team have clear expectations and objectives. If then the ‘lazy git’ surfaces and, despite airing your concerns during one of your catch-up meetings, their performance is still sub-par – you have every right to raise it formally.

But, that’s unlikely to happen if you simple do your job and manage. Apparently, a Manager should spend 80% of their time managing. This seems a bit steep to me, but if you aren’t allocating a large proportion of your time to managing your team then you are not going to get the best out of them. Simples.

So, Mr Sugar, you should have been looking more closely at the role of managers rather than criticising those working from home. You and your ‘lazy git’ comment can get fired!

For more advice on managing a remote workforce, why not contact our HR expert Tracy (tracy@mint-hr.com)? She is one of over 70 independent experts available at www.bubulexpert.com for just £20 plus VAT a month.