It is common to confuse the notions of efficiency and time. The available time we have or do not have usually dictates our ability to achieve a goal or fulfill a task.
And yet, what really defines efficiency is what we do with the available time we have, our ability to focus and produce.
“Work from home” tends to become the new normal and one of the questions it raises is towards our relationship to time, either as an employer or an employee.
From an employer point of view, working hours are often misperceived as a reassuring model justifying paying salaries. Having employees located in a same place for a defined amount of hours per day, can procure a biased feeling of money well spent, “I know where the money goes, I am buying time”.
Pushed to the extreme, this reasoning can lead to toxic management cultures. Indeed, praising presenteeism could be a way of denying deeper matters:
- Your employees’ implication in matters others than work does not mean that his or her implication in work is not satisfactory
Indeed, getting kids from school or making basic arrangement should no longer be a source of stress. These simple facts are not by themselves a way to measure effectiveness. Efficiency should be measured by the quality of the results. Goals must be defined, with attributed timeline and it is the ability to fulfill them as required that constitutes a KPI, not the detailed schedule leading to the result.
This perception becomes a serious matter when it leads to discriminatory policies towards parents that show a desire to act as such – the instinct of deducing the time one can devote to his work from his potential in succeeding is still entrenched in some minds. This historical mistake of reasoning is starting to find its way out of our societies global thinking. It is more and more accepted that having other activities and areas of interest – including children! – is a healthy thing to expect from an employee and that accordingly, the employer’s perspective should be focused on defining expectations, not the way those will be met.
2. Understand your own company’s processes
Here is a fact: during work hours, there are “dead hours”. Times where your employees have nothing to do. This usually happens when all the tasks have been completed but can also be the result of organic reasons and in any case, workload is simply not on a constant flow.
The way an employer is ready to read this fact is crucial. Today, there is a general approach according to which, if such situation occurs, it is up to the employee to be proactive by using this spare time to find a way to improve his performance or filling a blank in his knowledge. This catch-all clause in the mind of the employer shifts all responsibility to the employees and can sometimes lead to pure deny. A good manager should monitor closely those “dead-times”, by knowing that they occur and judging how truly efficient those “blank filling” are, and even to a certain extent, be ready to give up on those hours. Indeed sending your employees home, using their time to do personal arrangement can be the most efficient solution – your employees will know how to give those hours back when needed.
“Work from home” shuffles all the cards from the beginning. For some employers, being deprived of a “working hours frame” might be very confusing and instead of rethinking their relationship to time and efficiency, they might try to monitor more their employees, and rebuild a working time frame from home. Not only this solution would be unrealistic and a waste of everyone’s time, but it will certainly add to the confusion perceived by the employees – employees are not able to work from home under the same conditions as they did from the office.
In conclusion – Work from home, from an employer perspective, should trigger the understanding that time is not the best efficiency measure. Success is about having an efficient repartition of forces. Workforces need to be responsive to the workload. When needed, each and everyone must be available, focused, and at the best of his or her abilities.
Keeping this in mind, the real challenge is to create for the employee a work from home environment that deals with his or her struggles.
Here are the main challenges employees have to deal with by working from home:
How do I manage my time?
Again, time is not a measure for efficiency. Still, it is a good marker of organization. Having hours dedicated to work and family enables a better compartmentalization of energies.
As an employer, you need to be there for your teams. All tasks must be defined in a very clear way along with milestones. Use common schedules to define follow-up meetings, every two days at least. Your employees need to be able to share with you their advancement and this way, keep track of what they accomplish on a day-to-day basic.
How do I feel part of an organization?
Having breaks with colleagues around coffee is part of what makes a company complete. It is crucial to perceive work above the work itself, but also as a part of everyone’s social life. Relationship with colleagues cannot disappear. This means that by working from home, you need to make sure that the communication inside your teams does not stop, and does not exist solely based on work purposes. As well, make sure to have “online coffee break” where colleagues can discuss with each other on any matter that are important to them. These daily chitchats are part of everyone’s balance and reinforce your teams’ spirits.
How do I feel like at the office?
Technically speaking, not all your employees will have the perfect office condition within their house. They will need to build themselves a quiet spot within their house to be able to make phone calls, online meetings and work on their tasks. From an employer side, make sure you can provide with the needed equipment. Printer, extra screens or even office chair can be more than necessary to enable your employees to work decently and it is your responsibility to provide them with it if you want them to reach your efficiency expectations.
This change in the dynamic of your business is stressful for everyone. As a leader, make sure to be reassuring, transparent and to give the transition all the attention it requires. Make communication go both ways, listen to the struggle of your employees to adjust and try to think about what you can do to improve their work conditions. From your end, be very specific about your expectations, and define yourself KPIs. Face-to-face meetings must occur once a month at least, to keep having an organizational dynamic and strong inter-personal communication.