Many organizations are expanding beyond the traditional office format to include telecommuting in some capacity. In a 2008 WorldatWork study , 42 percent of U.S. employers responded that they allowed staff to work remotely during that year. In another survey, 67 percent of respondents said their organization experienced greater worker productivity as a result of allowing full-time or part-time telecommuting.
Allowing employees to work from home occasionally or regularly can be cost-effective and flexible, but managing a remote team can also come with challenges and miscommunications. Avoid these pitfalls by following these telecommuting tips to keep your team happy and productive.
1. Be Aware of Time Zones
When working with a virtual team, you may have to juggle different time zones and work schedules according to where everyone is located. For example, if you have employees in both San Francisco and Miami who all work 9 to 5, their schedules will vary by three hours. Use online tools to remind yourself what time it is in each employee’s city: the Google world clocks gadget allows you to add several different time zone clocks to your iGoogle home page.
For staff meetings and other calls requiring participation from employees in different places, try to find a time that is convenient for all parties. Be respectful of everyone’s time (for example, don’t schedule a call that is at 6 a.m. or 9 p.m. if possible).
2. Define Ways to Communicate
One of the most important telecommuting tips to keep in mind is to specify how your team should communicate in different situations. Learn how each employee prefers to stay in touch, and tailor your approach when possible. Discuss the following points with your staff to avoid conflict:
- When is it appropriate to call someone’s cell phone or send an instant message instead of sending an email?
- Should you hold business communications over the weekend except in urgent situations?
- Are there certain times that are off-limits for phone calls?
- Are there collaboration tools, such as project management programs or discussion forums, that can cut back on sending and receiving too many emails?
Communication skills training becomes even more important for employee development in the 21st century.
3. Focus on Deliverables
Flexibility is one of the primary benefits of working remotely. Employees and managers alike can find their own work-life balance as long as they meet deadlines and maintain high-quality work. Recognize that your employees may not be in front of their computers every second of the eight-hour work day, and trust them to get their work done while having a little flexibility to accommodate family and other personal responsibilities. Put a strong emphasis on completing projects, submitting deliverables and meeting concrete goals, and empower your staff to work independently.
Do you have any management telecommuting tips? What are your dos and don’ts?
Learn more about performance management resources at EDSI.