One of the challenges for people who work from home is that they don’t have easy access to their peers. Proximity is one of the primary ways we are introduced to new people, and it’s one of the ways we develop new relationships. It’s also how we have shared experiences and are indoctrinated into a culture.
If you are going to have people work from home, you are going to have to work very hard to enable these outcomes. They won’t happen on their own.
- Make sure they have a best friend at work: Everyone needs a best friend at work. They need someone that cares about them, and who they can communicate daily. Sometimes these relationships occur organically, but there is no reason to leave this to chance. Put people in situations where these relationships can develop.
- Ensure frequent communication: Without someone to talk to about your shared experiences, you lose the ability to put things in context, to talk things through. Some people who work from home go days and weeks without speaking to their manager or their peers. It can feel as if you are an island. Manufacture reasons to communicate and mandate these if necessary.
- Spend more time focused on values and culture: Culture is absorbed through osmosis. It creeps in over time. But if you aren’t ever near the culture, you are difficult to indoctrinate. Without understanding the cultural norms, many of the policies, procedures, goals, and practices can feel foreign–and you a foreigner. This means you are going to have to use every opportunity to integrate values and culture into every interaction.
- Insist on attendance at live meetings: The more frequently and consistently you can bring people together for a live meeting, the more opportunities you have to help people understand the value and purpose that underlie your culture. You can also force people who work from home into situations in which they meet other people, especially other people that work from home.
It can be difficult to work effectively from home. Most people lack the discipline to avoid the distractions. It can also be difficult because you are too far removed from the rest of your team, your leadership, and your company.
If you are going to have people work from home, make sure that experience is one that connects them to other people, to your culture and values, and to your purpose and meaning.