Helping Your Staff to Work from Home

Guest Post by Pam Smith

We are in a time when many leaders are transitioning staff from a regular commute-to-work environment to telecommuting in a work-from-home environment.  Leaders face a whirlwind of activity as they equip staff with computers, give practice training, and introduce access to online meetings all within a few short days.

And then what? The new in-home environment presents new challenges. I researched best practices and gathered feedback from my coaching clients to form questions that you could ask of your staff to help them have a successful transition to working productively from home. I have also provided comments why asking these questions might be helpful to them.

  1. How are you doing?

Start calls asking about what’s going on in their lives. Connection with the leader and with colleagues needs focus when the staff is dispersed. Conversations that would normally take place when staff pop into each other’s workspace won’t happen and those interactions will be missed. Those conversations may be a catalyst to help your team work well together. Your staff may be feeling very isolated and will need caring human engagement.

  1. What is your planned daily schedule?

 Staff are used to the accountability of an arrival and a departure time and a work-centered environment. Organizing the day and staying focused on work may need new learnings.

Encourage the staff to keep the regular morning routine including getting dressed for work.  Wearing pajamas during the workday blurs the line between work life and home life.

Ask: What times work well for you for team meetings? When teams are working remotely, check-in meetings are more important than ever. Before sending out group calendar invitations, consider staff preferences.

Be sure to also ask: When might you have flexibility in your planned schedule should a need arrive to call outside of your preferred times?

  1. How are you setting up your workspace?

Having a dedicated workspace will help maintain boundaries between work life and home life. Encourage your staff to duplicate the office workspace as much as possible in their home telecommuting environment. Doing so will help facilitate productivity.

  1. How are you minimizing distractions to your workday?

By far, one of the biggest challenges when it comes to telecommuting is finding ways to limit distractions. While having a set schedule and a designated workspace can help create and maintain boundaries, one client found the need to place a message on the home workspace door stating: “Don’t enter – Conference” to eliminate the “Are you busy right now?” asks from children and spouse.

  1. What do you play in the background to help you work?

For some people, the quieter the better.  I am in that camp. For others, it’s too quiet at home. Playing music can help with focus when there is noise from others in the house who might also be working or schooling from home. I use a white noise machine whenever I am on a call.

  1. How are you stretching your legs during the day?

Many people get regular exercise at work from walking department to department and even building to building. Working from home can yield a much more sedentary experience than in the office. Research indicates that exercising for 20 minutes before taking an exam improves test scores. Likewise, taking a short walk or doing a few minutes of exercise can give productivity a boost.

  1. How do you maintain your focus on work when you look around and see lots that could be done around your home?

Especially in the first few weeks of telecommuting, clients tell me they are reminded of all the things around the house that could fill the time and that in the beginning they would end up spending almost half of their time on home tasks.  Encourage your staff to include in their work-from-home plan a home task that will give them a lift when they feel the need to task switch.

What would you add to this list?

Pam Smith


Pam Smith is a Leadership and Transition Coach @ ErgoSophic, LLC where she provides life-giving, wisdom-driven coaching at an accessible cost for those who are stuck. She is a client advocate at the North Care Women’s Clinic in Lansdale, PA and is a former VP for both for-profit and non-profit organizations.  You can reach Pam    


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