NorthBridge Blog

pat_smallThe trend toward having more workers spend more time working offsite is growing, according to a recent Gallup study of telecommuting.

Whether they’re full-time or temporary/contract employees, more and more of the workforce is embracing the flexibility that technology allows.

“Technology has made telecommuting easier for workers, and most companies seem willing to let workers do their work remotely, at least on an occasional basis if the position allows for it.” – Gallup

What’s this mean for recruitment professionals and company managers? What are some solid best practices you can use when it comes to managing and motivating full-time telecommuters?

  1. Hub_and_Spoke_Black_IconHave a conversation at the start. Whether it’s an established employee or a newcomer or contractor, have a dialogue when they begin telecommuting about expectations, scheduling, email, workflow and anything else that will help create effective and hassle-free integration. They’ll appreciate it, epsecially if you’re showing you’re interested in helping them be successful at the task.
  2. Never forget that telecommuters are often already motivated. They aren’t working from home (or the local Starbucks) to dodge work. They’re often energized by the flexibility and self-motivation involved. There’s evidence of how telecommuting actually increases the level of engagement that white-collar workers feel toward their jobs. Whether that’s because of the benefits of being able to telecommute, or because those workers are more inclined toward engagement in the first place, isn’t clear yet. But be careful about challenging an offsite worker about their level of involvement – if they’re a contractor or temp, they might just jump to a different gig if you’re questioning their integrity.
  3. Gallup ChartSet office hours and deadlines that work for the entire team. Telecommuters can set their own hours, but keeping their own schedule might mean they’re not aligned with managers or onsite coworkers. Never worry about setting parameters on when they should send emails, for instance. Or when they should share their work with others.
  4. Schedule regular and supportive check-ins. Whether weekly (at least) or daily, have a conversation with them to make sure your remote workers are being efficiently utilized. But make clear you’re not “checking up” on them and playing work-nanny, but staying informed and even helpful about their workload and projects. Use the check-ins as a chance to show you’re there to support them and optimize their situation: How’s it going? Is there anything you need from our end?
  5. Use the tools. Skype, for one, is a good way to look in on them — and maintain a face-to-face collegiality and “human contact” that goes a long way. There are any number of collaborative work platforms allowing offsite and onsite workers to productively put their heads together on any given project, too.
  6. Ask their input. If they’re freelancers, temps or contractors, they can offer objective insights into how your projects, processes or even company culture operate. You might not get those from full-time, on-site workers, either because they’re intimidated about critiquing their employer or because they’re too “close to the work” to be objective about it.
  7. Include them in your workplace community. Too many times, the fact someone is telecommuting means they’re not able to be part of on-site celebrations, recognitions or other moments that help bond a team together. Try to find ways to make them feel included in the positive aspects of your company culture. They’ll appreciate the outreach and be even more engaged and loyal as a result.

• Design an accountability structure – Remember that the employee doesn’t always know how to get the most out of a remote work situation either. Many know that they would enjoy the autonomy, but don’t know what doing it successfully would actually would look like, so help them out! Have the conversation about accountability. What can be expected on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? How will we measure success? When you set tolerable limits it becomes much easier for everyone to meet expectations. Each person is different, so remain flexible enough to adapt on the fly as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
• Schedule weekly check-ins – The weekly check-in can be a manager’s best friend when it comes to teleworkers as long as it’s used efficiently. It’s important to let the employee know it’s not an issue of trust, merely a way for you to stay informed about their workflow. There are four questions I always make sure to ask on a weekly check-in• Set remote office hours/email deadlines – A chief benefit of working remotely is setting your own hours, but if you’re only getting emails on Friday evenings from your teleworkers, it can seem like they’re on their own schedule, or worse, disengaged from the organization, which is a real fear. Don’t be afraid to set email deadlines and ask them to stay aligned with actual office hours. You’d be surprised at how simple a conversation this is as long as you bring it up beforehand.
• Design an accountability structure – Remember that the employee doesn’t always know how to get the most out of a remote work situation either. Many know that they would enjoy the autonomy, but don’t know what doing it successfully would actually would look like, so help them out! Have the conversation about accountability. What can be expected on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? How will we measure success? When you set tolerable limits it becomes much easier for everyone to meet expectations. Each person is different, so remain flexible enough to adapt on the fly as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
• Schedule weekly check-ins – The weekly check-in can be a manager’s best friend when it comes to teleworkers as long as it’s used efficiently. It’s important to let the employee know it’s not an issue of trust, merely a way for you to stay informed about their workflow. There are four questions I always make sure to ask on a weekly check-in:

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