Empowering your employees to work offsite

by Susan Williams and Diane Beck

Working from home, whether it be by choice or necessity, requires a good deal of faith on the part of the employer as well as a corresponding amount of commitment on the
behalf of the employee. If you can’t trust your assistants to work from home, you most likely cannot trust them to work in the office. Having said that, here are a few ways to

help someone transition to a home office work space.

Establish specific working hours and expect them to be at their computer and ready to work at the agreed upon time. Some agents ask that their employees text or email them

during the first hour, some may have them call first thing in the morning. They need to be in work mode while at home. It should be clear to all employees that working from home is not an excuse to stay in their pajamas all day. They need to be committed enough to get up and get ready for work as though they are going to the office. That doesn’t mean they can’t wear comfortable clothes, but they need to be ready should you have any errands for them to run, such as delivering flyers, opening vacant houses, etc. Every position should have a good, clear and precise job description of what daily/weekly/monthly duties are expected of the employee.

Make sure they have the right equipment. This might entail them taking their office computer home with them so that they have access to the files stored there as well as the necessary software. You might need to provide them a desk, file cabinet or other tools to help set up a productive environment for them. They will need high speed internet access and/or good cell phone service in their home. You might need to make a small investment to ensure a comparable work space. Webinars, Facebook Live events and other types of professional development tools are a good way to break up the day, educate and explore new tools for the team. Google Docs or Microsoft Teams are good tools for sharing information, collaborating and getting work done collectively.
Typically an employee will communicate with clients via an office landline, so you may need to supply a work cell phone for them that you own, so that they don’t have to use their own personal cell phones. This is very helpful if their job is an 8 to 5 one. They can turn off a business cell phone, but not a personal one. This will vary depending on the staff person, position and expectations. Ask them to copy you on every email they send during the work day, even if they don’t usually do that. This way you are in the loop of communications and do not duplicate information with a client. You can also “reply all” and send additional information or add a personal comment to your buyer, seller, lender, title, etc. Start the day with a team group chat. Zoom or Google Hangouts is a good choice and easier than texting. It’s easy to see each other’s smiling faces and keep up a good working relationship even though there is distance between everyone. Be open and honest with them about your concerns and ask them to share with you any challenges they are facing. Loop everyone in to get input on how to make the out of office experience a productive one for all. Don’t be surprised if their level of work actually improves. There are a lot of time wasters in the office, people to chat with, coffee pots calling their names. Working

from home can eliminate those. Expect them to take breaks throughout the day to get some exercise, snacks and take a regular lunch break. You might need to remind them to still take lunch and especially breaks. Sometimes an employee working from home forgets about breaks and wonders why, at the end of the day, she/he feels exhausted.

With the right tools, expectations and communication, having your team work offsite can be an effective and productive way to do business.