Is Working from Home Really ‘Working’ if the Sun is Shining?

Man working from home in garden.

As the sun starts to shine and the days grow longer, the debate about working from home versus working in the office heats up. With new flexible working rights and hotter summers, the odds seem stacked against employers. From extended breaks to potter in the garden, to “recharging the batteries” with some summer rays, or even bunking off early for a refreshing shandy in the shade… it’s too hot to work anyway, right?! Employers might worry that employees working from their gardens are less productive than if they were tied to their desks in an office. But is this perception really true?

The Allure of Working Outdoors

We can all admit, working from home has its upsides. The ability to sit in comfy clothes, with music on, without worrying that it suits everyone’s taste. You can even occasionally sing along to Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” without any Simon Cowell-like judgment.

But as the summer sun beckons, concerns about productivity can arise. Let’s consider Duncan, an administrator who has been successfully working from home since lockdown. Duncan loves his garden, and now that the weather is sunny, he often works from there. His manager, however, has noticed that his status on Teams seems to be idle more frequently, raising concerns about his productivity. Is Duncan just enjoying the flexibility of working from home, or is he pushing the boundaries too far?

Addressing Employee Productivity Issues

So, what should Duncan’s manager do? There are several strategies to address potential underperformance while maintaining a positive working relationship:

1. Open Dialogue: Start with an open conversation. Discuss expectations, provide feedback on performance, and give the employee a chance to express any challenges they may be facing. Understanding Duncan’s perspective can help in identifying any underlying issues.

2. Set Clear Objectives: Ensure that Duncan understands his responsibilities and what is expected of him. Clear goals and deadlines can help maintain focus and accountability.

3. Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to discuss progress, address concerns, and provide support. These meetings can help identify any issues early on and find solutions collaboratively.

4. Provide Support & Resources: Ensure Duncan has the necessary tools, resources, and training to perform his job effectively from home. Offer support in overcoming any obstacles he may encounter.

5. Performance Improvement Plan (PIP): If informal discussions and support haven’t improved performance, consider implementing a formal performance improvement plan. This plan should outline specific areas for improvement, timelines, and consequences if performance doesn’t meet expectations.

6. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of discussions, agreements, and performance metrics. This documentation can provide clarity and serve as a reference point if further action is needed.

7. Consider Flexible Solutions: Explore flexible work arrangements or adjustments to workload if personal circumstances are affecting performance. For example, allowing flexible hours or reducing workload temporarily.

8. Addressing Well-Being: Consider whether there are underlying issues impacting Duncan’s well-being or ability to perform. Offer support through employee assistance programs or access to mental health resources if needed.

9. Escalation if Necessary: If performance does not improve despite efforts to support Duncan, consider escalating the issue through HR channels, which may involve disciplinary action or termination as a last resort.

10. Review & Feedback: Regularly review progress and provide constructive feedback. Recognise improvements and celebrate achievements to motivate the employee.

Employee Performance Monitoring & Reporting

To effectively manage productivity, it’s essential to implement robust performance monitoring and reporting systems:

1. Use Technology: Utilise productivity and project management tools that allow for real-time tracking of tasks and deadlines. Tools like Trello, Asana, or Microsoft Teams can help managers and employees stay on top of their work.

2. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Establish clear KPIs to measure productivity and performance. Regularly review these metrics to ensure employees are meeting their targets and provide support where needed.

3. Transparent Reporting: Encourage employees to regularly report on their progress. This can be through daily or weekly updates, ensuring transparency and accountability.

4. Regular Performance Reviews: Schedule periodic performance reviews to discuss achievements, identify areas for improvement, and set new goals. This helps maintain a continuous feedback loop and ensures ongoing development.

5. Employee Self-Assessments: Allow employees to conduct self-assessments. This empowers them to reflect on their performance, recognise their strengths, and identify areas where they need support.

Working in the Garden Might Really be Working After All!

So, is working from home in the summer less productive than being in the office? The answer isn’t straightforward. With the right management strategies, clear communication, supportive measures, and effective performance monitoring, employees can be just as productive, if not more so, while enjoying the benefits of working from home. Employers must balance flexibility with accountability to ensure that productivity remains high, regardless of where employees choose to work.

What are your thoughts on working from home during the summer? Have you found it to be more or less productive?

If you’d like to learn more about addressing performance and productivity for employee who work from home… we’d like to hear from you. Call today – make Personology your outsourced HR department or your hybrid HR solution and get the best from your employees.