Eight Secrets for Success
Lindy Barr Batdorf
Even before gas prices
started hitting new highs, telecommuting made sense. Benefits for
employer and employee are magnified in today’s volatile economy and
many business owners across the nation who had not considered it
before are considering it now.
Obviously, some positions
do not lend themselves to an @home situation, but for those that do,
whether an employee works one or five days a week from a home
office, benefits can outweigh pitfalls if problems are considered
ahead of time.
Three potential stumbling
the dog’s barking, there’s a kid selling candy at the
door--what’s an employee to do? And how can an employer be
certain the job is getting done?
(lack of): when the boss isn’t “just down the hall” anymore,
what are some ways to encourage conscientiousness and timely
completion of work assigned?
Telecommuters often don’t feel part of the team--how does a
manager help them stay connected?
There are eight secrets
to avoid problems and realize success for @home employees:
Secret #1: The right
employee for the right job.
Seems simple enough, right? Well, we’ve all seen that theory unravel
in the workplace when certain key factors were not taken into
consideration prior to the hire. The same is true for
telecommuting. It has to be a good fit. Some questions to
employee on-task and productive when they are in the office?
prone to distraction?
Do they want
How much of
the employee’s job can be done in a home environment?
percentage of an average workday is the employee needed at the
be more productive away from the office?
employee’s office space be utilized for other things on the days
they are working from home, like meetings or space for a
part-time employee, perhaps?
important all concerned?
Here, the company
benefits when the employee is allowed to do his job with fewer
interruptions, thus, his output may be higher (home interruptions
are addressed below).
Secret #2: Extend the
work@home option as a privilege for employees who have a proven
track record .
When the honor of trust is given to top employees whose work history
illustrates they will be productive working from home, even if the
budget is tight and raises are not possible, the opportunity to have
a more flexible schedule or reduced time burning gasoline in traffic
can be seen as a great bonus.
When this is treated as
an honor--perhaps announced at a staff meeting as an award for those
whose work history warrants it, complete with criteria for earning
said honor--others may wish to raise their own personal bar to meet
that criteria. It also makes it clear to employees who might
otherwise feel slighted what it will take to be considered.
Secret #3: Write down
and discuss openly any and all questions/concerns before a decision
Address supply issues, logistics, legalities and tax concerns of
your individual state ahead of time. Put in writing what the
employer will supply and do, and what is expected of the employee.
Similarly, discuss the benefits of working from home. Some
individuals thrive in a community and others do well when left on
their own. For example, one concern for most telecommuters is the
fact that working from home is not without its distractions. Some
suggestions might include:
regular business hours in a room with a door that closes
day in the early hours and 1/2 after the kids are in bed
Use a task
sheet and simply do the tasks in each 24 hour period however
works best on any given day.
It is up to the employee
to limit distractions in his/her environment, but a good manager
manages, and will help each employee find success.
Secret #4: Communicate
early, often and clearly:
Communication is key to the success of a telecommuting situation. It
is easy for an @home employee to feel set adrift and disconnected
from the company unless managers make communication a top priority--
and not just one-on-one communication, either.
Encourage other staff
members to include all @home employees in all-office communication
as well as more formal company-wide communication like e-mail blasts
and staff announcements. Nothing spells “disconnect” more clearly
than an employee who finds out about the all-staff luncheon after
Secret #5: Structure
presented with respect:
Some employees will need a great deal of structure to make this
situation work and some will not. Even so, as a manager, you may
wish for every @home employee to submit daily information on work
completed. First decide the outline (or template) for the workday
schedule and again, put it in writing. You may wish for this list
to be submitted to her/his immediate supervisor before the start of
every work day (this allows home employees to type it up at midnight
and send it off if they like).
Secret #6: Regular and
irregular check-in points:
Some employees get little done unless they have tangible
accountability to a person or a self-imposed deadline. The level of
professionalism the employee exhibits and her productivity will
determine whether or not you need this step, or how long it should
continue once begun. Again, each situation will be different.
Communication ahead of time will clarify whether or not supervisors
will need to contact employees at irregular intervals to check in
with them. Unless you have worked out an open-ended,
work-by-project situation, accountability keeps productivity up and
the temptation of distractions are held at bay.
Secret #7: On-site
meetings and staff meetings:
It is important that an at-home employee have regular and
not-so-regular face-to-face meetings at the office in order to feel
part of the team. Communication is vital for those who work at
home, as is a little office camaraderie.
For this reason, and when
possible, @home employees should be expected to attend all
staff-wide meetings and/or training sessions and will hopefully be
invited to informal gatherings for birthdays or celebrations as
Secret #8: Recognition
While this is an entire topic all on its own, it is important to
include @home employees in every aspect of working as a team, and
this includes extending honor when they have done a stellar job. No
employee should be overlooked and ignored if they are part of the
working community. All too often, when someone is not seen on a
daily basis, they tend to be forgotten or omitted from normal,
everyday courtesy and things like thank-you lists. Often, their
work is never recognized at all. This leads to discouragement and
discouragement leads to resentment and resentment can lead to
It’s important then, as a
manager, to keep the lines of communication open, to encourage other
staff members to do the same and to include everyone as equitably as
possible, especially when praise and recognition are concerned.
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