Let me clear right up front: I am extremely grateful for the ability to work from home (WFM), and I have been able to do so for over 20 years. With the invention of Email and the Worldwide Web (Internet), I have been able to conduct business near and far all from my home office. That being said, I know for a fact that WFM isn’t for everyone. In order for WFM to be successful, you must know your people.
When I first left the corporate jungle, I struggled with the isolation. I no longer had an IT department to fix my computer or a secretary to take my messages. I became a one-woman show and didn’t have peers to interact with. I would find myself running errands to simply see people! Fast forward, and I actually appreciate the solitude as it creates an environment for high productivity…for me.
You see, we are all made different, and some people are more social than others. Those high on the interaction scale may flounder at home without daily doses of people. Others who are more reserved might find it refreshing…unless they seek consistent feedback and direction, which could frustrate them if they aren’t getting it.
My point is to approach WFM on a case-by-case basis. Don’t try to guess – ask your people what they want. My gut tells me that a hybrid model will be the most frequent answer. It gives some flexibility to WFM but also allows for in-person interaction, which creativity and innovation demand.
You must also establish clear measurements so that every employee, regardless of location, knows what is expected of them. We are still living in the aftermath of COVID-19 and how it changed the world of business. For instance, how will you keep all employees engaged if you don’t see some of them? How will you discipline, reward, motivate, guide, lead from afar?
Your leadership style will influence your approach. Micro-managers will have a difficult time with WFM because they can’t physically look over the shoulder of their people. Might be the perfect time to learn a different management style! Easy going managers may find it easier to let me do their own thing, but they still must hold people accountable. Ideally, striking a balance of focusing on results, not the how, combined with solid leadership and consistent communication will help keep everyone on task.
Training will be even more important moving forward, especially in-person, to bring teams together to learn, grow, stretch and engage. The face of business may have changed, but our human nature has not. We are still wired to be and work together. We are better together than we are apart. Whether you bring everyone back, continue to WFM or go the hybrid route, your people still need coaching, leadership, communication and training to be effective and successful. I’m here to help! Let’s have a conversation.