How NOT to manage Working From Home

Sep 22, 2020 | Business, COVID-19, Organisational culture, Small businesses, Wellbeing

With the second Coronavirus wave approaching fastly and another Government U-turn asking people to work from home if possible, it seems that we won’t make it back to the offices anytime soon. 

There are fairly mixed reactions to this – while some employees are happy to avoid commuting and work on their own time, most business owners are dreading the damage WFH will cause to their businesses. Happy with it or not, these are the Government rules and that’s what we should all do. 

As a business owner, you need to ensure that you’ve adapted your company to the new normal of WFH. However, in the last couple of months, we’ve noticed quite a few mistakes businesses make that impact on employee productivity, efficiency and health while working from home. Let’s have a look at them:  

Too many meetings

Many managers think that having constant meetings is a good way to catch up with your team and manage them better while working from home. Let’s call things their real names – the majority of meetings are nothing but an interruption of work for your employees. Just look at it in the same way you would at the office. Do you actually have that many meetings or interactions (besides quick coffee break chats) with your team on a daily basis?

According to research, unnecessary meetings disrupt the flow of your employee’s day and result in them feeling fatigue or overloaded. So, try and keep the “catch-up” meetings to a minimum and only have meetings that actually achieve something. 

Long and draining meetings

It’s not just the number of meetings that is overdone, it’s also the length of them. You don’t need your meetings to last an hour or longer – they will only drain your employees and make them less productive afterwards. According to Parkinson’s law, human attention span lasts around 20 minutes – after that it all goes through one ear and comes out of the other. And before you say that it’s not enough time for a meeting, it’s actually proven that shorter meetings tend to be more productive and cut out unnecessary fluff. 

There are ways to ensure that your meetings stay short and productive. Here are a few ideas for your next team meeting: 

  • Outline the goals of your meeting. If you can’t find specific goals that should be reached at the end of the meeting, then the meeting is not essential.
  • Be clear about the end time. Meetings that have no end time will likely end up being unnecessarily long and unproductive.
  • Give out questions before the meeting. If you are looking to discuss some changes with your team, make sure you phrase it as a question rather than a statement in the meeting agenda. For instance, instead of “we will discuss staff well-being” write “what can we do to improve staff well-being?”. This way they will not be caught off guard with questions and will prepare valuable answers beforehand.
  • Lead the meeting. During online meetings it’s easy to get off-track, start repeating ourselves or forget what was the goal to begin with. As a leader, you should actively facilitate the meeting and keep it moving towards the goals. Try and involve everyone as well, instead of having a one-way conversation. 

Strict working hours

A lot of businesses seem to try and micro-manage their employees into following specific time tables for work. In fact, some even try to “spy” on their team, using employee monitoring softwares.. This is by no means a good idea and taking away the autonomy from your employees will only decrease their productivity, their respect for you as their leader and negatively impact their mental health. 

Working from home for most of us means trying to manage work as well as family, children and other household tasks. You need to trust your employees to find the best way for them to work around these disruptions and still be productive. After all, why make these decisions for them, if they deliver quality outputs with their own methods? 

Bombarding your employees with different tasks

While multi-tasking may feel like you’ve reached the ultimate level of productivity, it is actually disrupting your focus and decreasing efficiency, according to research. So, if you want your team to be productive and focused, stop interrupting their work with lots of small, insignificant tasks. In fact, you should encourage your team to have time blocks with no interruptions and allow them to not check their emails or messages during these times. Another good idea is to keep the mornings disruption-free by not emailing them yourself, as that is the most productive work time for most people. 

Ignoring health & safety considerations

Your workers have the same rights in or out of the office and this is extremely important when it comes to health and safety. It is your responsibility to ensure that your team has a safe and ergonomically sound work environment at home. Some of the concerns to keep in mind include display screen equipment, a proper desk and chair for working, good lighting in the room, safe electrical equipment, good working hours (no excessive overtime) and taking regular breaks. 

Ideally, you would perform an assessment of their workplace before allowing them to work from home, but it’s not always practical so you can arrange for your employees to take responsibility and self assess their home working environment.  You can place the onus on employees to bring matters to your attention, but you must have a formal policy.

If you need advice and assistance on how to ensure the health and safety for your employees working from home, check out this guide from our partner Peninsula. 

Need help adapting to your new “Business as Usual”?

The COVID-19 crisis has significantly already affected each one of us and is continuing to do so. Many businesses have moved into survival mode and are learning how to adapt to the new “business as usual” ways to operate. If you find yourself struggling, we’re here to support you. 

At ASfB, we are not just your regular accountants – we also specialise in business advisory and development. We will support you every step of the way and help you create a cohesive business plan to survive this crisis. 

We also host regular FREE online events (webinars), where we talk about these topics and give advice on how to move forward as a business. Make sure to check out our upcoming webinars

Feel free to contact us for a chat by calling us on 01202 755600 or emailing to