One of our clients asked to discuss with me our experiences of running our business out of our homes. The current pandemic/business situation has made her think that her office space is not only too large, but since she’s recently been working at home, not necessary at all.
There’s a lot that goes into this, and for the most part she was asking about our experience with software and hardware and other technology components of the modern office. Since we’ve been running this business out of our homes for nearly 20 years, it was an interesting journey for me to remember not only when we made changes in how we ran the business, but why.
One of the things that I tried to highlight was that it was easier for us doing this over time as an evolution, as opposed to a point blank change. We were allowed to nibble at the edges of any change as it came up, decide what was digestible, and consume the changes that agreed with us. We went from having a fax machine with separate phone line in house, to an online fax service, to no fax service, in the course of a couple of years. We dropped business practices that were still being followed in office spaces when it became clear they really don’t have that much value when working from home.
In essence, almost every little business process we have, we have learned to do as a home-based business since we started doing it. Most bumps in the road were smoothed out over time at a pace specific to the business process. It will be much different for folks that decide to transition from leasing office space to running business out of their own home, because everything will come at once. So for terms of expectation management, we’d recommend realizing a few things:
The whole setup may seem “clunkier” to you for a while. It takes time to streamline your comfort level, until then you’ll keep doing things you don’t necessarily need to do now, just because you had to before. You’ll evolve along with your processes, it just takes time.
Work with your business clock, and allow your employees and contractors to do so as well. You have timelines and they need to be known and adhered to, but how people get to those timelines differ. You have to monitor the work flow but hovering is counterproductive. Progress reports are great, 5 emails in an hour aren’t. Eventually you will find your style for out-of-sight management, but don’t expect that it is great to start with, especially if new to you.
You will have to work to develop synergy in your team and your efforts. Provide an easy place for suggestions from employees/contractors and clients. It could be as simple as email, it could be web-based technology, but it should be intuitive to your participants. The synergy in a workplace where everyone is there at the same time can be the lifeblood of an organization. It needs to have remote opportunities as well, and the business owner has to invest in it, both in time and effort.
The good news is that there are more tools than ever, and better tools, to sew remote home offices into the work team experience. And there are more people experienced in the remote home office experience than ever before – so my recommendation for those interested in it is, do as our client did, and reach out to somebody with that experience and begin to formulate your own ideas of how to do it for your organization.