It’s not about where your staff works, it’s about how efficiently they can get things done. Telecommuting can work—but management needs the right tools and policies to implement it.
To telecommute or not to telecommute? That’s the question on a lot of CEOs’ minds these days, especially after Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer and Best Buy nixed it altogether from their company policies.
Independent research firm ORC International recently conducted a telecommuting survey, which found that 65 percent of respondents believe that those working at home are being productive and 29 percent believe they spend most of their time “goofing off.” Forty-three percent believed telecommuting provided a better work-life balance, while 19 percent said it made the balance worse.
With 11 percent of Americans already telecommuting, it’s a trend that gets plenty of attention but that many employers still are hesitant to embrace. Although managers can’t keep an eye on their remote workers the same way they can monitor staffers in the office, there are effective ways to manage your telecommuting staff. Some suggestions:
Set a policy: Institute a system to ensure that your employees are still managing their time well and producing what you need. The point is not to have your staff working from home all the time but to have a policy in place in case of an emergency. If something happens and telecommuting is their only option for delivering their work on time, have the tools necessary to support your team. “Videoconferencing and other technologies are only going to get better, and commuting times are only going to get longer. That means it’s going to be up to you, as a manager, to make sure your team is engaged in something more than sitting on their living room couch,” business strategist Shawn Graham writes in Fast Company.
Use the right tools: Technology has blessed us with tools to communicate and get work done out of the office, but the key is to use the right ones to support your policy. “The technology you choose has to have the right checks and balances and be compared against whatever guidelines and objectives you’ve put in place,” Graham suggests. Syncing your employees’ phone, email, and chat systems and providing videoconferencing tools can help your staff work together seamlessly, no matter where they are.
Trust your employees: If your employees are having issues with productivity, does it matter whether they’re at home or in the office? Not really. Access to the internet in the office can be just as distracting as it is at home (cats can be quite entertaining). If your employees say they don’t get work done in the office due to distractions, it could mean your office environment needs some work. In that case, telecommuting can be a help, and if you send the message that you trust your employees to deliver their work on time, they’re more likely to do so, whether they’re working at home or in the office.
Does your association have a work-at-home policy? What is it, and how’s it working? Tell us in the comments.