Whatever the reasons—job autonomy, better productivity in a regimen other than 8-to-5, gas prices, work and family balance—telecommuters have become one of the fastest-growing groups of employees in corporate America.
More than 33 million Americans now work remotely at least one day per month, according to the nonprofit WorldatWork “Telework Trendlines 2009” survey report. Still, most managers have been trained to work with employees who are only physically present to them. How can you manage what you can’t see?
According to Rose Stanley, telework practice leader at WorldatWork, training is the first step toward instituting a successful telecommuting program.
“Luckily, a good manager is a good manager,” Stanley says. “Managers need strong , knowledge of company policy and procedures, awareness of performance objectives and results, and, most of all, trust in their employees, no matter what their locality may be.”
Here are some tips for individuals who manage teleworkers:
1. Know who makes a good telecommuting candidate. Not everyone is cut out for working remotely.
Managers probably already know which of their current employees typically produce results whether they’re closely watched or not. They work well on their own and they take initiative. Those are the best candidates for telework.
Managing remote workers requires trust between supervisors and employees. Managers need to make themselves available and establish open communication.
2. Have a written agreement that spells out the details and expectations of the arrangement. Develop an official telecommuting policy to make clear how the organization views this type of working arrangement. Include who is eligible, what equipment is needed and who will pay for it.
Cover security issues, how the employee will be supervised, performance goals, and when and how the employee will communicate with managers, co-workers and customers. Be sure to address the conditions for terminating the telework arrangement.
Have teleworkers sign the agreement.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make plans for regular communication between the manager and teleworker. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly conference calls to discuss current projects, timelines, obstacles and achievements.
Managers should make it clear they welcome unscheduled calls, too, just as a means of keeping in touch. The goal: maintaining the kind of spontaneity normally found when people work together on a daily basis.
Build team cohesion by including goals for communicating with co-workers. Video conferencing can enhance those relationships.
4. Provide pay for performance. Performance-based pay works no matter where employees do their jobs. With teleworkers, it’s even more important because it keeps the focus on what matters most—business results, not face time.
Address performance issues just as you would for an office-based worker. Don’t jump to a conclusion that a deadline was missed because the teleworker was slacking. Discuss it with the employee and understand that sometimes they have issues that arise just like anyone else.
5. Make teleworkers part of the team. Keep the teleworker involved to create a cohesive work environment for both the teleworker and those in the office. Invite the teleworker into the actual office at least once a quarter. That helps the teleworker stay connected to co-workers and the culture of the organization.
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