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How to Supervise Employees Working From Home

David has over 15 years supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge in how to handle personnel issues across many areas.

Employees can be just as productive working from home as they are in the office.

Employees can be just as productive working from home as they are in the office.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are working from home more now than ever. In my case, what was expected to be a short-term working from home situation turned into a long-term situation. Even after the pandemic subsides, it should be expected that people will continue working from home due to the ease of it and to continue social distancing efforts.

One of the biggest hurdles in this is managing employees. In the office it's fairly easy to converse with employees, provide guidance, and so on. However, when everyone is working from home, that is much more difficult.

Managing Employees Working From Home

While you can rely on the things you have already learned in how to manage employees, there are other considerations that you need to keep in mind when managing employees working from home.

  1. Trust your employees. I put this one first because it is the most important. Supervisors may incorrectly assume that an employee working from home will be lazy and won't do anything. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic proved that many employees thrive working from home. So put your misconceptions out the window and trust those employees working from home.
  2. Check-in with your employees. I check in daily with my employees working from home. A quick text message, even if it's to say good morning, is good enough for a check-in. It's a good time to inquire about anything going on in the day or advise of any tasks you need handled.
  3. Have regular calls with your employees. Every two weeks I have individual meetings with my employees to discuss what work they have done, what work they have coming up, questions they have, and so on. This time is for them. If enough time is available, then I talk about their work performance and future duties I have for them.
  4. Ask how they are doing. This is something that can be intermingled in to the couple of points above. Ask how they are doing working from home. Inquire how their family is. In-person conversations like that flow more smoothly, but not so much in a virtual setting. Show you care and are interested in their well being. It's something I neglected to do for awhile when my employees first started to work from home.
  5. See what they need. Ask them what they need to accomplish their duties. Employees may need some technology or just someone to rant to. Be there for them. Again, they are working from home and could be isolated because they have no co-workers to go to. Let them know you want to help and provide them with what they need to get the job done.
  6. Ask if they need to go into the office. One thing people don't consider is that someone may want to go into the office, even for a brief period of time, to get some work done. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I would go into the office once every couple of weeks and it would really recharge my batteries. Offer the same to your employees.
  7. Tell them it's okay to mix personal business and work. Employees working from home have the same problems as you. They have to manage their kids, pets, home, and other personal issues. Let them know that it's okay if they have to take care of such things throughout the day. Feel free to talk about what is okay and what is not okay, so your employees know where the boundary is.
  8. Keep employees challenged. I put this on here because it's easy to forget. People could be stuck in their homes for days or weeks while working from home. Assign employees new tasks that livens up the work week and helps expand their knowledge. An employee that is challenged is a happy employee.
  9. Keep it professional. Even though the situation will feel more casual in nature, make sure to keep all interactions with employees professional. If you are in a video call with them, make sure you are wearing appropriate attire. Don't pry too much about their personal life. Always maintain the supervisor-employee relationship.
  10. Be the stable supervisor. No matter the reason why people may be working from home, you need to be the rock. Show things are going well, that you are in control, and things will only get better. Lead by example to show you are not phased by anything going on. Your employees will appreciate it.

So in the end, trust your employees, respect them, ask them how they are doing, and listen to them. Show that you are responsive to their needs and provide them with support so they need so that they can get the job done.

Having one-on-one meetings with employees working from home is great for morale.

Having one-on-one meetings with employees working from home is great for morale.

Disciplining Employees Working From Home

Straight away I will tell you that it will be difficult to discipline employees that are working from home. What will you do? Ground them and send them to their room? I can offer advice in this area though that may guide you if you have to discipline an employee.

  1. Talk to the employee. This is the easiest and simplest solution. For example, I had an employee who failed to do a task by the end of the day and had an errand planned that took the employee out of their home for awhile. They did finish the task, but late that night. We spoke when we an our regular call. I advised I had no problem with personal items if they don't interfere with deadlines and I am given a heads up if they had to leave their home. That was it and it was no big deal.
  2. Consult your supervisor. If things aren't getting any better or bigger problems are coming up, then you need to go to your boss and advise them of the situation. Use it as a way to talk it out to see what the best course of action is.
  3. Consult HR. Lastly, and I mean lastly, consult with your human resources department. They will provide guidance in how you should proceed, whether it be discipline up to the point of termination. I try to make this the last step in the process because things get much more serious when HR is involved. I'd rather resolve the issue without HR's involvement so things don't escalate any further. But if you feel it's needed, then go for it.

For the most part these are steps you would take while in the office, so that's really no surprise. However, steps could be cut out of the process or discipline may escalate further because of the unique situation that the employee is working from home.

Sometimes it will be necessary to discipline employees working from home.

Sometimes it will be necessary to discipline employees working from home.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 David Livermore

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