This blog was written by Rochele Bertasso, HR Business Partner at Helpside

Whether it’s kids in the background, unavailable employees, missed deadlines, or a general lack of productivity and communication, managing employees who work from home can be extra challenging, especially when things aren’t going well. Managers can often feel like they are in the dark and unable to keep a pulse on how an employee is performing in their role. So, what can be done to establish expectations up front, and maintain high levels of productivity?

Establish Work from Home Criteria and a Policy

Whether you already have employees working from home or are thinking to start allowing it, establishing criteria, and having a policy in place can help employers avoid issues later. Companies should consider which jobs can reasonably be done at home versus those that need to be done in the office. They should also establish criteria to establish which employees are eligible to work from home. For example, a company may decide that eligible employees are those in good standing with the company, without recent performance or attendance issues, and with a designated private workspace in the home. The policy should also address company expectations surrounding work-life balance and potential distractions, such as childcare duties, that can be prevalent in the home environment.

Set Expectations Early and Often

Providing guidelines and clear expectations is especially critical. Outlining each team member’s availability is key to avoiding frustration later. Consider weekly one-on-one meetings with each member of your team. Taking time to review goals and provide feedback often is especially important when employees work from home and you cannot communicate as readily as before.

Track Progress

While it’s important that managers use metrics to track key performance indicators, micromanaging should be avoided. Managers should, however, ask employees to be accountable by detailing up front what they are working on and when they expect those projects or tasks to be complete. Consider holding short virtual team huddles to review what each team member is working on. Doing so can promote accountability and identify areas where the team workload needs to be rebalanced. On the other hand, too much oversight can signal mistrust. If employees are communicating and meeting goals and deadlines, then be sure to acknowledge that and allow them to maintain a sense of autonomy.

Address Issues Promptly

When issues arise, don’t wait to address them. Meet with your employees to talk about concerns head on. When performance or attendance issues are at play, be specific. Outline the policy or performance expectation in contrast to what you are seeing and help the employee understand the impact their behavior is having on the business or other team members. If you are at the early stages of communication on the issue, consider providing coaching and support to the employee. If this is a continuing issue that has already been addressed, move down the line of progressive discipline. As always, if medical issues are at play, pause and involve HR to ensure compliance with all applicable Federal and State laws.

The remote work environment is likely here to stay. If you can establish expectations up-front and maintain ongoing communications about performance with employees who are working from home, it can be a positive experience for everyone involved. If you have questions about managing employees who are working from home or need help creating a policy, reach out to the Helpside HR team at or leave your name and email address below and we will reach out. We are glad to share best practices that work well with our small business clients.