Attracting top talent post-pandemic often requires a promise of at least some work-at-home to be on offer – and many employees are now reluctant to return to the office full-time, even when pressurised to do so by employers.

What the stats say …

Official figures show that the number of people working from home peaked during the pandemic at 49%, compared with 12.5% pre-pandemic.

Since this peak, figures have shown* no clear upward or downward trend in homeworking so it looks like full-time and hybrid homeworking are here to stay. Some 28% now regularly work from home. That’s a real culture shift in the world of work, but what does this mean for managers who are faced with overseeing a disparate workforce?

The challenges

Here are some of the main challenges involved in managing people who are working at home:

  1. Maintaining a strong culture of shared values and a sense of belonging.
  2. Ensuring good communications and productive teamwork.
  3. Effectively monitoring performance and output.
  4. Ensuring employees maintain a good work/life balance.
  5. Securing sensitive data.

The solutions

  1. Create a regular programme of meet-ups with your team – this can be a mix of online and in-person events. Alternate purely social occasions with business updates and opportunities for staff to give feedback and share ideas for improvement and innovation.
  2. Clear communications are key – especially when your team is working remotely. Communicate regularly with your team on both a one-to-one basis and as a group. Combine a variety of methods such as email, video calls, messaging apps and project management software. Encourage your team to stay in contact with each other and with you. Maintain a virtual ‘open door’ policy and hold virtual and in-person team-building events.
  3. You must trust your staff to do their work. Focus on outcomes not what your staff are up to every minute of the day. Set clear expectations about working hours and availability but allow for flexibility. Don’t micro-manage. Agree measurable goals and hold regular one-to-one meetings to review progress and address roadblocks.
  4. Homeworking can lead to a blurring of the lines between work and homelife. Remote working can also lead to isolation and low morale. Bear this in mind when holding one-to-ones with your team members. Look out for warning signs such as reduced productivity or work being emailed across late into the evening. Be familiar with sources of mental health support so you can signpost where appropriate.
  5. Ensure your team have robust systems in place to protect sensitive data and make sure they understand the importance of following data protection protocol at all times. Issue regular reminders and provide training, especially if your team deals with personal or financial information.

You may find useful:

Managing and Appraising Performance: Find out how to create a consistent performance appraisal process with clear goals and targets and meaningful feedback for the advantage of both employees and the organisation.

Effective Communication Skills: Understand how your conscious and subconscious behaviours, actions and communication methods affect and influence others and how to use this knowledge to achieve a positive response from your team.

Developing Winning Teams: Discover how to build cohesive, motivated and productive teams, whether you’re starting from scratch, making some personnel changes or need fresh inspiration for an existing team.

*Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 13 February 2023, ONS website, article, Characteristics of homeworkers, Great Britain: September 2022 to January 2023.