The smartest move to make as a leader is maintaining a normal work schedule even from a remote setup. While transiting to working from home from working in an office, some complexities to be mastered are: systems, communications, logistics, and habits. The major problem is an assumption that working 24/7 is fair game.
Expecting the remote team to work 24/7, is foolish on many levels. Expecting more working hours to produce more output, is unrealistic as is creating a 24/7 working scenario erasing boundaries between work and home and that includes multi-tasking during the real work day. Working more hours cannot increase total output but can only kill it.
Avoid diminishing returns
With working hours, remember the point about diminishing returns. Working more hours can temporarily enhance team output, but in the long run, over two to three weeks, this invites disaster. When employees work more hours, mistakes multiply as more the hours people work, the more likely mistakes occur due to impaired judgement. Stressful times need people to make fewer mistakes and have better judgement. To maintain your team is fighting fit, never compromise on giving needed breaks. Health issues do emerge and the more your team works, they are likely to have emerging health issues such as poor sleep, diabetes, heavy drinking, depression, memory loss and heart disease. This often results in time away from work, besides rising health insurance costs, and employee morale issues. With the 40 hours per week schedule, burnout can happen. Working under stress for too many hours leads to burnout, and recovery within a few days, is difficult. Avoiding burnout is important as recovery can take months, and even years, in a few cases.
Every leader must recognise that employees themselves find it difficult to set boundaries and often work non-stop when at home. When working from home, you expect work hours be devoted to working while non-work hour times are meant for personal time. You protect your team from overwork, while protecting the business from low productivity and distractions. A leader must set that tone by publishing the team work schedule so that all are clear about individual work schedules and working hours. As in any office, some people occasionally end up working more or vary schedules, but it’s necessary to have a schedule and then part way from it, as required.
Appropriate working hours
Ever heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do?” Many leaders work long hours, and are surprised when the entire team works accordingly. If working on a night or weekend, do work that avoids communicating with your staff and send messages only during normal working hours. If you need to work at odd hours, inform your direct reports, explaining why it is required in an emergency. Expect work hours to be completely dedicated to work, by setting norms that your team must not work 24/7; you must also convey the message that during work hours, all are expected to work very hard. While difficult in the current environment with people having kids at home, this clarity allows your team to maintain realistic working setups. They may schedule their productive working hours by splitting their time with the primary caregiver at home, or scheduling work when kids are being home-schooling or are napping.