In the Internet age, the office is no longer the only place to work. Telecommuting, a practice once frowned upon, has become an important way to save money and attract quality employees. Whether your company embraced telecommuting years ago or is just now considering the switch, collaboration, remote support, recruitment and other issues are essential to the success of your program.
Remember the uproar when CEO Marissa Mayer ended full-time telecommuting for Yahoo.com employees? Although Mayer eventually said that the edict was about encouraging collaboration, many of her employees believed that the change was really about control. In fact, perceived loss of control is often one of the biggest obstacles telecommuting programs face. Keeping employees accountable is as simple as:
- Establishing goals and metrics to ensure that work is completed on schedule (if employees don’t meet goals, their approval to telecommute can be withdrawn.)
- Clearly defining project steps to avoid confusion that can lead to delays
- Holding weekly teleconferencing or Skype sessions with employees to discuss progress and goals
- Checking in with employees in between weekly teleconferences via telephone calls, emails, instant messages and texts
It’s true that collaboration is easier when employees are in the same office every day, but telecommuting doesn’t have to affect your staff’s ability to work together. Take advantage of your company’s intranet or cloud to offer web-based project management and collaboration software that provides the remote support employees need to manage joint files, discuss projects, access updates, and receive internal communications from HR and other departments.
Most people spend at least a few minutes a day in conversations that have nothing to do with work. These interactions help employees develop strong bonds that are necessary for effective collaboration. Just because your telecommuting employees can’t share coffee breaks together doesn’t mean that they can’t indulge in a little small talk throughout the day. Devote the first 10 minutes of teleconferences to non-work topics, but make sure everyone has a chance to speak. Social media apps and groups also offer a simple way for employees to stay connected.
Attracting Quality Employees
If it doesn’t matter where your employees do their work, you can consider a much larger pool of applicants for a position. Your team can be scattered across the state, country, or even the world.
Telecommuting is an important perk for a significant number of employees, particularly younger employees. Millennials consider work flexibility more desirable than healthcare coverage, according to a 2016 Randstand survey. If your competitors offer telecommuting, you’ll lose the best candidates if you don’t do the same.
Reducing Tech Support Issues
No matter how motivated your workforce, your telecommuting effort will be a failure if there are frequent connectivity problems. Sixty-four percent of telecommuters surveyed by Staples said that a poor VPN connection was their biggest tech challenge, and 58 percent of employers noted that their telecommuting employees experienced connectivity issues several times per month or more.
A good remote support plan is the key to keeping far-flung employees connected. If your company doesn’t have the manpower to devote to supporting telecommuters, you may want to consider establishing a relationship with a technology consulting firm that offers remote network monitoring. These systems constantly monitor your network and spot problems the minute they happen. The quicker problems are detected and fixed, the less downtime your telecommuters experience.