Making The DEcision to Work from Home or Return to Work

couple working from home

 

Guidance from a Technology Company Owner

I have been running an IT Services business for almost 23 years now.  I have always been the boss that if I walk down the hallway and can’t see you working then you must not be.  So back in March when Solace decided that we would go to a 100% work from home company and close our office, it was a very stressful time for me.
To my surprise – it was a success – so much of a success that we are not going back to the office. Well, we are not going back full-time, but in a hybrid manner. We have decided to work primarily at home and maintain a smaller office space for meetings, shipments, equipment repair, and for those employees who may like a change of scenery.

While this was a tough decision for the management team, we did so by asking ourselves a few key questions.

 

Can we do our work remotely in an effective and efficient manner?

Your first question is simply – can we perform our duties working remotely? For us this was yes, and for many organizations that do not produce or provide goods this answer will also be yes.  Then we dug a little deeper and asked ourselves can we work remotely while providing the same level of service we do while working in an office.  This led us to question two.

 

Will our clients suffer if we chose to move forward working from home?

Now that we decided our work could be done remotely, we needed to guarantee this would not affect our clients.  This came down to trusting our staff and knowing our clients.  We knew that they were working, and doing a great job, by the responses from our customers.  They were getting more work done because of fewer distractions.  Our Customer Satisfaction Scores went up as we sent out more and more surveys and I was pleasantly surprised. This led the Management team at Solace to make the decision to continue to work from home at least through the end of 2020 and more than likely beyond for most of our employees.

 

Will our employees strive in this environment?

I discovered that there are two types of employees, those that can really do well working from home and those that can’t.  Some employees crave the “water cooler” talks that are difficult to have when you are isolated at home.  There are new distractions at home as well. Since school has started, employees are having to multitask to help with their children’s virtual learning as well. Therefore, we chose a hybrid working environment.  Solace wanted our employees to have a designated place to work if they choose or a quiet place without distractions from children or working spouses sharing the same office.  We also wanted a place we can host clients or guests and provide a building with security for storage, client builds, and shipments.

 

How will we measure productivity?

You need to come up with a way to measure productivity.  While there are tools on the market that can tell you how much time your employees are spending in front of their screens each day as well as software packages that can monitor their cameras and report to management when employees aren’t in front of their computers, coming up with actual numbers to measure may be more fruitful.  At Solace, we measure “Employee Utilization”.  We expect our technicians (Helpdesk, Engineers, Managed Services Techs) to reach a certain Utilization percentage.  This is basically a percentage of time entered on their timesheets in comparison to the number of hours in a work week.  We have not changed how we measure this from before March so we can track over time.  This also allows the Management Team to know when we need to hire a new Help Desk Technician or a Managed Services Engineer.  By tracking numbers like this, we can efficiently measure how well our employees are doing working from home.  Were they meeting their weekly utilization goals before Covid and now 6 months later are not?  Of course, there are other things that factor in like sales, customer loss, etc. but you must have a goal and a way to measure that goal.

A few other items we learned along the way:

 

Have the Right Tools
The right tools make a huge difference.  Being a technology provider, we were lucky to have many of the tools we needed immediately to move into the remote work world so quickly.  As we continued our path, we learned more about which tools work the best and how to use these in a remote environment.

Microsoft Teams was our saving grace. We had our documents stored in Teams, our employees used it daily for communication and collaboration and it is cloud based. We literally walked out of the office one day and was up and running the same day with Teams.

 

Virtual Daily Meetings
We conduct a companywide Teams meeting every morning at 8am.  I prefer our employees use the video feature, but I understand when they are having a morning they just can’t fathom watching themselves on screen. I have found it to be a great way to stay in touch with everyone, while providing purpose and accountability.  We are a team, whether working from home or the office and we must maintain a few of the same habits to keep us cohesive.

I also do a weekly Happy Hour, in which we have a more laid-back meeting that gives everyone the chance to socialize and share a bit about their lives. We sometimes play games or just talk about life. It is a great way to check in with each other.

 

Create a Policy

Working remotely is a privilege not a right.  You need to create a “non-covid” policy for remote working. For example, “we will allow working remotely one day a week on an approved basis”.  Once you have your base policy written, then create a special “Covid” policy on top.  This provides structure in a new normal that can sometimes feel less structured.

In conclusion, the decision is yours and depends on the kind of work that your business does.  You can’t have all your employees work remotely if you own a manufacturing facility, but some of your staff can. I have a friend that was my first hire way back when.  He took a job at a bank several years ago as a security expert.  He walked in on the first day, they handed him a laptop and told him to go home.  He hasn’t been in the office since. What I love about his story is he sold everything, bought an RV, outfitted it with a high end 4G hotspot and packed up his wife, three kids and the dog and traveled our amazing country for three years.  As long as he had cell service, he could do his job.  I know we have at least one employee at Solace that wants this ability to work from anywhere.  We are working towards it.

 

 

If you need help with this decision for your business, Solace has the expertise to help.  We have helped dozens of companies make the transition to remote work with custom solutions built on Microsoft Products.

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If you need help with this decision for your business, Solace has the expertise to help.  We have helped dozens of companies make the transition to remote work with custom solutions built on Microsoft Products.