Tips to manage ‘working from home’

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For the last few years working from home has been steadily, albeit slowly growing. In the last couple of weeks, it’s taken a dramatic lurch forward and working from home has become ‘wfh’. How should you manage staff working from home, without micromanaging, letting go, and yet harnessing the strengths of introvert and extroverts?

What is the real difficulty?

The first statement is normally about technology, “video conference isn’t as good as face to face”, “they need to be on the office server”, “our main software doesn’t work remotely”. These may be true to a certain extent (of course it’s nicer to see somebody face to face), but they don’t have to be the block to working from home anymore.

Removing the obvious allows realisation to hit. In many cases staff management methods are outdated; this can be especially true of introverted leaders. Many introverted leaders are more detail conscious and want to see details, to know their staff are working hard. This can be linked to a belief that seeing staff in the office means they’re working. Is that true, are staff working harder because they’re in the office? Even if it is, are they working as productively as they could be?

Using one of the many project management systems or online “to do lists” can help manage staff remotely as well as in the office. Whether in the office, or working from home, setting clear objectives and agreeing how you’ll monitor performance is important.

Then there’s the fear of interrupting an employee and asking how they’re doing. Some introverts don’t like doing it in the office and feel even worse phoning them “at home”.

A rapid adjustment

Maybe, until now, you’ve avoided having anybody work from home because your firm doesn’t have the technology, or maybe you don’t trust your team to work as hard.

Firstly, don’t worry, it’s not just you. Many leaders (introvert, or extrovert) are having to adjust quickly, and concentrate on ensuring their firm survives the problems of this pandemic. It’s normal to be feeling confusion, loss, or uncertainly; but remember your team are also going through these emotions and they may need you to provide reassurance.

Secondly, consider this a long-term lesson. I strongly believe that working from home will remain common once this situation is over, so you can reap benefits in the longer term too (more desk sharing, less desks, less filing cabinets, less need for office space).

3 tips manage working from home employees

  1. Agreed deadlines and priorities are now even more important. Discuss, set, agree how you’ll both check in, and stick to the plan. My research shows introverts prefer a clear, structured set of tasks to something less defined, so help them create it. Extroverts may prefer something less structured, but you may need to jointly impose structure, or risk them not sticking to the list.
  2. Agree how, and when, you’ll discuss progress. By calling at agreed times you’re not interrupting! Don’t just ask “is it going ok?”, dig deeper, perhaps ask to see the work in progress (screen sharing helps). Introverts often don’t like to share incomplete work, so agree these progress checks up front. Extroverts may relish collaboratively working on half-completed work. Combine these progress checks with a shared job management system (Monday.com, Microsoft teams, Asana are examples), so you can see what they’ve completed, as they go, without interrupting them.
  3. Arrange more regular one to one and team meetings via video (Zoom, Microsoft teams). It doesn’t matter which system, being able to see them, talk and screen share are important. Click here for ways to improve remote team meetings

Introvert working from home

Introverts working at home will probably get less interruptions, less chat with others in the office, more ability to focus. Introverts can easily be more productive when working alone, if they have the freedom and the structure they enjoy. But constant unplanned interruptions will damage that.

Extrovert working from home.

All the above points apply, but….. the extrovert is energised by those coffee machine chats and interruptions. It may be harder to manage extroverts working from home, specially if you don’t like “checking up” or “interrupting”.

  1. Help them split their day into tasks which are best worked on alone and those that involve collaboration.
  2. Where collaboration and discussion are involved, help them get others together at the relevant times. When considering relevant times, consider time blocking. How will they block their time to be most productive? Interruptions every 10 minutes may not be the best method, perhaps longer group meetings and longer alone time – or perhaps not?

In summary

Working from home needs new skills from you and your team.

  1. Discuss and agree how it will be done, rather than just assume
  2. Be aware of differences in personality (introvert/ extrovert) and how this can change the wfh dynamic.
  3. Get better at managing task lists and deadlines.
  4. Make more use of remote team meetings where you get the whole team to contribute (click here for 22 more ideas).

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