Work From Home: Implementing WFH in your business

About the Author: Ashley Thomson
Ashley Thomson

Work from home has changed the landscape of how leaders manage their workforce. As a business coach to owners and managers of small businesses, I have seen that sometimes this shift can be hard to navigate. My advice to employers is that if you haven’t already considered work from home, now is the time to consider an approach that will work for your business going forward.

In this briefing:

1. How work from home is viewed by your employees and your business
2. What other businesses are doing with work from home options
3. Building a work from home model for your business
4. Step-by-step: Evaluating a WFH model for your business
5. Putting your work from home model in place
6. Your mindset as owner or manager of a small business

Before I dive in, it’s worth noting that the intention of this briefing isn’t to force WFH on small business owners or employees. As always, my role as a business coach is to provide advice and insights to guide business owners to make informed decisions.

Work from home as viewed by your employees and your business

Let’s start by considering all the different opinions and emotions that revolve around this initiative.

Considering WFH from your team members’ perspective:
“Work from home worked alright over the last two years, so why not continue to let me work from home all or most of the time?”

“The price of fuel is the highest it has ever been, it is very expensive to travel to work to do the same thing I could do from home”

“Infection levels of COVID, colds and the flu are still a risk; I don’t want to get infected from working in the office or while taking public transport to work.”

“If the business doesn’t want to let me work from home, then it feels like they’re saying they don’t trust me.”

“If this business won’t let me work from home, then I’ll go get a job that will. The job market is buoyant now, and I’ll be able to find another role easily.”

Considering WFH from your business’ perspective:

“While Zoom and Teams are good, a face-to-face meeting with my team where everyone can see body language and communicate together still beats a two-dimensional video call.”

“With WFH, our team can function well for a day and even a week, but when we have lots of team members working remotely the general office banter, water cooler chats and lunchroom catch ups don’t occur. This is the glue that binds us together and forms part of our culture.”

“We’ve struggled to train team members who are working remotely. We also struggled to utilise team members who are working remotely to train those working in the office. Training over Zoom or Teams just isn’t as effective because my less experienced team members don’t get to hear other’s conversations, phone calls and ask simple questions over our office partitions. This is stunting team members’ development.”

“Someone needs to be in the office during working hours to receive deliveries and deal with the mail. Often my team members who remain in the office find they have to take on extra duties to compensate for those who are working from home.”

“I know there will be future recruits that will demand a WFH option in their employment contracts, so a WFH model might be necessary to attract the best talent to our business in the future.”

What other businesses are doing with remote working

To give you some context, I’ve included the work from home models that have been announced by some of the large corporate companies in Australia:
Westpac: Hybrid model – 2 days per week in office is encouraged
Tabcorp: Hybrid model – at least 3 days per week in office
Qantas: Flexible policy – most staff onsite the majority of time

You can read more in this article from Sydney Morning Herald.

Building a WFH model for your business

Firstly, my business coaching advice is to move away from the assumption that you have to be fair and provide every role and person with the same work from home opportunity. It is best to see WFH as a privilege, not a right.

Here’s a perspective: if an industry training conference was being held in your city and you had the option to take members of your team, would you automatically invite every person? No, you wouldn’t; you’d decide who to take based on a variety of factors including: reward for past effort, likelihood of them getting value from the conference, cost versus reward, etc.

Step-by-step: Evaluating a WFH model for your business

Here’s a step-by-step approach to do the analysis for a possible work from home model:

1. Role Review

Assess which roles could be performed 100% remote, partially remote or need to be performed in the office

2. Individual Review

Make an honest assessment as to how each individual team member performed when they worked from home during past lockdowns:

  • Did they stay on top of their work?
  • How did they cope mentally with working remotely?
  • How did they offset the remoteness and stay in touch with other members of the team?

3. Business Review

Considering a typical week in your business, what days do you especially need certain people in the business:

  • To attend meetings that are best held face to face
  • To have a day or days where everyone is in attendance in the office and all team members can collaborate personally
  • To ensure you have coverage for accepting deliveries, processing mail and welcoming visitors.

4. Strategic Review

Consider some of the longer-term factors relating to WFH:

  • Considering your key team members, is a WFH model likely to increase your retention of these individuals?
  • What is the competition for recruits and are you going to be able to attract the best candidates in the future with or without a WFH model
  • Personal leave has generally been taken by employees when they feel ill. Some employees will take a day off for a minor headache, while other employees will present for work with a raging cold and infect others. Going forward, you have the option to consider a work from home day if your employee doesn’t feel well enough to come to work, but isn’t so unwell that they can’t do any work.

This might be a win/win scenario for both parties: the employee keeps their personal leave days for when they really need them, and the business maintains productivity during the winter cold & flu season.

Putting your WFH model in place

If you’ve decided to adopt a WFH model, work through the following steps to put your model in place. If your a client of Tenfold’s, your business coach will adapt the model to suit your business and guide you through this process:

Communicate to your whole team

Communicate to everyone in your business that you will be adopting a work from home policy. Explain the broad parameters of the policy and let your team know that they are welcome to request to work from home. Explain the factors that you will be considering in the decision.

People allowed to work remotely

Communicate privately to those people who you will be allowing to work from home:

  • Let them know which days they will be allowed to work from home,
  • Set a trial period or a date on which you will review the work from home arrangement and can make changes,
  • Discuss and set with them other parameters, such as the need for them to come in for occasional meetings and what your expectations are in relation to communicating with their co-workers and their manager during work from home days.

People not approved to work from home

Communicate privately to those people who you will not be allowing to work from home:

  • Let them know the reason their role isn’t suitable, Or
  • Let them know why they as an individual haven’t been granted the opportunity, but that you will continue to review the situation based on their performance in the office.

Your Mindset as a Leader of WFH team members

Lastly, I want to encourage you to adjust your mindset as part of this process.

Typically, business owners have judged employees based on their working hours in the office; e.g. the person who works back late in the office is a good, constructive team member. Going forward and especially if you adopt a work from home model, it is important that you put in place the right KPIs and reporting, and focus on the outcomes that people achieve rather than relying solely on their hours of attendance.

At Tenfold we provide business coaching for business owners and managers. You can find out more here about business coaching to lead high performing teams.

Bringing it all together

WFH is a complex construct that could have challenges AND advantages for your business. I encourage you to discuss and work through these steps in detail with your Tenfold business coach. Your mentor has in-depth knowledge of your business, team and culture so they will be able to provide a perspective on what might and might not work in your business.