Ideas for short- and long-term work-from-home policies
Like most of you, The Miller Group scrambled last March to equip our staff for working from home. Although we’re considered an essential business, we wanted to protect our staff and community. Everyone thought we’d be back in the office by July, but were we wrong! Once we realized that wasn’t going to happen, we decided longer-term plans were needed. Here’s how we’re making it work – and staying consistent with our trusting, empowering culture.
During the pandemic, some employees have understandably been reluctant to come into the office. We just moved into a new space that provides plenty of social distancing, but we certainly understand individual concerns, so associates are welcome to work from home if that is where they are more comfortable. For added safety, many associates come in on alternating days. One group is in the office Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the other visits Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For people in the office, our COVID-19 committee and leadership team created guidelines around distancing, mask-wearing and meeting sizes. For at-home work, we have supported employees who may have children at home due to virtual school or lack of daycare. Our philosophy is that everyone just needs to do whatever is needed for their family and job.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we gave every employee a laptop, two large monitors and a printer for them to use in the office or at home. This has allowed great flexibility and made it easier for people to move back and forth.
Updated work-from-home policy
Our old policy only allowed a small number of people to work from home, and permission was based on tenure. We’ve had such a positive experience with associates working from home during the pandemic that we’ve eliminated those limitations and will now base permission on the role itself.
Some roles and people are just more suited for remote work, and it allows them to be more productive and increases satisfaction. Our feeling is that we should trust our people – and that means knowing what they want and communicating what we need as their employer.
Post pandemic, everyone can apply to work from home up to four days a week. There will be a few differences from our pandemic guidelines. They must have their own, dedicated workspace and maintain frequent communications with team members. While we understand kids may be at home during the pandemic, post-COVID-19, daycare arrangements will be required.
Evaluations are now monthly
Performance management can be a challenge when staff is remote. Our annual evaluations were scheduled to happen during the initial shutdown, so to the delight of our associates, we delayed them. As we considered the positive response to that decision, we began revising the process to make it a better experience for both managers and associates.
Instead of yearly evaluations, managers and their staff now get together for individual, monthly feedback sessions. Sessions include:
- Reminders of each person’s personality type
- A personal check-in: How are you doing, and how can I help?
- Short- and long-term goals: How are you progressing? What barriers can I help remove? What goals do we need to remove or add?
We also moved pay increases to January. We base salary increases on comp studies, as well as the history of monthly checkpoint progress.
Culture is the driver
For all of these changes, we’re driven by our purposeful culture. We care deeply about our team and want everyone to be successful and live full lives. Success at work is connected to your personal happiness, and that doesn’t look the same for everyone. We know that when you feel fulfilled at work, you have better interactions with your family, too. So, we’ve trusted our team members and have found they make the right calls when given choices. If they don’t, of course, we hold them accountable; that’s part of keeping the culture alive, too.
One last thought: We work to make sure our policies are consistent. If we were strict with our PTO and sick time, it wouldn’t be consistent with the new and improved work-from-home policy. Hence, we offer unlimited PTO – another demonstration of the trust we place in employees.
By Amber Manning, CAPI, Chief Service Officer, The Miller Group