Remote work has exploded since 2020 when offices worldwide closed down as nations battled COVID-19. While there was initially some friction concerning working from home, companies and employees eventually settled into a routine. Today, many organizations still provide their employees the freedom to work remotely.
While remote work can be convenient and practical, some organizations need help maintaining strict professionalism in a work-from-home setting. As a business owner, you may worry that your at-home employees are spending too much time away from their laptops or lapsing into conversations that are more appropriate for friends and family, not colleagues.
Here are a few signs indicating your employees aren’t being as professional as they ought to be (and some tips for recalibrating and reestablishing proper expectations.)
You Don’t Have Consistent Standards for Your Employees Who Work Remotely
As a business owner and attorney, you juggle lots of responsibilities. Sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to manage everything! We understand how hard it can be for owners to bounce from one task to another.
However, if you notice that your employees seem lackadaisical in their performance or unconcerned if they make repetitive errors or mistakes, you may not be setting the bar high enough. Make clear your expectations for remote workers and office workers alike.
All employees should put their best efforts into handling their tasks. If you don’t have the time (or propensity) to push people to do their best work, consider hiring an office manager who can. That way, you can focus on your clients and goals for your business while your office manager ensures smooth operations among your workers.
Oversharing Is Common
Sometimes, managers, employees, and contractors develop strong bonds that can lead them to overshare. It’s not unusual for workers to become good friends; after all, they may spend more time with colleagues than with friends or family. They may also feel more open and casual when working from their home environment.
However, managers should consider discouraging employees from divulging too much about their private lives. There’s a thin line between talking about an individual’s hobbies and children and discussing more personal aspects, such as discord in their relationship with a spouse or partner.
As an owner, you should establish a benchmark for oversharing. Feel free to talk about your child’s love of volleyball or the holiday season, but draw the line about your personal habits, like a night out at the bar.
Suppose you overhear employees talking about overly personal information. In that case, you might clarify that such conversations aren’t appropriate for the office, and employees can continue the discussion outside of the office.
There Aren’t Clearly Established Rules for Online Meetings
Consider setting a few if your organization doesn’t have established rules for online meetings. For instance, you can require all employees to keep their cameras active in online discussions and provide workers with virtual backgrounds they can use during a call. That way, no one is distracted by other colleagues’ surroundings.
You can also require workers to keep their microphones on mute when they aren’t speaking. There will be fewer interruptions that way, and everyone gets a chance to say what they need to.
Another rule that works well for online meetings is setting an agenda. If people understand precisely what the meeting is about, they’ll be less likely to waste time discussing unimportant items that aren’t the topic of the discussion.
Simply sending an outline of the items you wish to discuss before the meeting is enough to keep everyone focused. If you’re not leading the discussion, you can ask the managers or employees in charge to provide their agenda.
You Don’t Plan Your Discussions
Sometimes managers get too comfortable controlling their employees’ and colleagues’ time. Instead of scheduling meetings, they expect the employee always to be available.
Availability for work-from-home employees or contractors can vary, especially if they’re not full-time workers. Unfortunately, you can’t assume they will be on their computer at the exact time you need them.
Instead of setting up a meeting with only a few minutes notice, ensure you’re giving your employee enough time to prepare. Usually, a few hours or days in advance is enough time to notify the employee that you need their help.
This advanced notice also allows employees to prepare for the meeting by gathering appropriate documentation or formulating answers to your questions.
If you need quick assistance, send an email or instant message. Chances are that your employee or contractor will see it and respond to you as soon as possible. Otherwise, try reaching out to someone else you know is currently working.
Deadlines Get Missed
We know that attorneys must keep a strict eye on their deadlines. If they don’t meet them according to schedule, cases can become unwieldy and difficult to manage. When your staff works from home, it’s easy to wonder whether they’re as concerned about deadlines as you are.
Managers who notice their employees or contractors falling behind on their work might try to shake things up a bit. You should address your worker’s missed work or poor performance. Usually, that’s enough to get the employee back on par with their usual work ethic.
If missing deadlines is becoming a continual problem, try creating a shared calendar that everyone has access to. You can note who is responsible for meeting the target dates, so there isn’t any missed communication.
If work-from-home employees continually aren’t meeting your expectations, you may need to let them go. While that’s unfortunate, some people simply need the structure of an office to perform their best work.
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