Pros and Cons of Managing Employees From Home
Before the coronavirus hit America, employees envied those who were allowed to work remotely one day a week. It seemed that a five-day workweek was one day too many, and people longed for an additional day at home. All those employees were granted their wish, as the quarantine closed businesses large and small across America and workers fortunate enough to still have jobs were required to work at home. The quarantine wasn't what they had in mind, and the adjustment has been easier for some more than others.
A Chicago-based professional artist, Pamela Matiosian, says, "The quarantine is making me search deeper for my authenticity as an artist. Having my studio at home and being sequestered doesn't affect me, but it intensifies my desire to create." Other creative professionals may also agree.
According to Robert (not his real name), a software engineer manager at a well-known university, "Managing my staff from home is easy because my employees are senior- to mid-level software engineers, and they know exactly what to do. The department functions efficiently using 10 different software programs for note-taking, overall project and task assignments, delivery dates and more. The manager then provides update reports to senior management and handles employee performance reviews.
His employees were required to attend daily checkpoint meetings in the office conference rooms. With everyone working at home now, they must still attend three meetings daily using a meetings software program. The first daily meeting is short but effective, running from 9 to 9:15 a.m. Employees report on their current projects, the tasks completed and the work for that day. If anyone runs into any type of problem, he or she reports the issue, and the meeting moves on. Robert then handles each issue on private conference calls with the employee, so as not to waste other employees' time. If a more senior engineer or another type of IT professional needs to be called in for help, Robert handles the request.
The team works on two-week delivery expectations, and his team has an 80% to 100% completion rate for projects. Since the engineers are highly experienced, if something doesn't get done, Robert says it's because the approach isn't working, so the team knows how to address it.
When Robert hires a new employee, he asks the job candidate what type of work environment he or she prefers. Some employees only want to work remotely, while others want the interpersonal interactions of being in the office. Even if the work is of a serious nature and requires concentration, many enjoy the social aspect of a community within an office. Robert adds that working at home is more time-consuming than working in an office, but more is accomplished when working remotely. It also allows greater flexibility.
One employee had a difficult pregnancy, and doctor's orders required her to work at home through the entire pregnancy. Other employees with infants at home enjoy the ability to relieve their spouses periodically throughout the day, especially since day care in the area had to be canceled.
One of the software programs tracks when employees log in and out of a task or project, which eliminates inaccurate time tracking. It also gives employees the freedom to work when it's most advantageous for each. For example, a person can call and say, "I'm having a bad day and need to rest for a couple of hours." It eliminates fussing over when the work is done, knowing the due date will be met regardless of whether the employee works during the day or throughout the night.
Robert has some colleagues who micromanage, which is commonly known as a negative management style, and adds that managing employees from home might be tougher for such types. One aspect he misses of managing in an office environment is using his ability to read a person's body language for improved communication. Reading body language is difficult in videoconferencing. When working at home, one also must endure more distractions when a baby is present. The university's work-at home order runs until May 30, and, of course, the school and the state can change or extend the date accordingly.
Email career and life coach: Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.