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That’s how workers can feel when some employees are “allowed” to work from home, while they are firmly planted at the office.

“In the past, working from home was seen as a ‘perk’—like the employee was getting something special,” says Rose Stanley, an employee benefits specialist with WorldatWork.

“The co-worker who has to stay behind has to get over that, as much as a manager has to get over the idea that the only way to manage is by ‘face time.’”

If it’s done right, she says, a telecommuting policy can help people work more efficiently and retain talent, without causing bruised feelings or communication glitches at the office.

Here’s how to work well with out-of-office employees:

Understand that it’s not a perk.
Hopefully, leadership has explained why they’re extending some work-at-home options, so it’s perceived as a business policy, not a gift.

Trust the system.
Do you feel miffed when you envision the telecommuter rolling out of bed at 10 a.m. or working in her pajamas? Stanley advises not spending energy suspecting the worst. “If your co-worker is really goofing off, it’s going to show up in her productivity, and the arrangement is not going to last long,” she says.

Set up clear communication lines. “The rules have to be clear,” she says. “Ask: Is the telecommuter off-limits at certain times? What’s the best way to reach her? What are the best ways for her to communicate with you? What collaborative tools will work best?”

Example:
Stanley collaborates with an employee who works out of her home in another city. They both use IM to chat and Microsoft Live Meeting to work on documents together.

See a glitch? Go straight to the source. Don’t allow feelings to fester. If you’re having trouble completing work because a teleworker isn’t available during particular hours, for example, approach her directly with the specifics. Say, “There are some challenges I’m having getting things done ...  It would be helpful to have a way to communicate during these particular hours.”

Put yourself in their shoes. For example, try to experience an office meeting the way an at-home worker does. Go into another office and dial in to the meeting. “You hear side conversations, papers rustling—it can be disruptive to the teleworker,” Stanley says. “There are two sides to every coin.”

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