Times have changed. No longer is the traditional office space job the only option. The current workforce, comprising largely millennials, seek more flexible work hours. Out of which part-time, working remotely and telecommuting seems to be the most popular options.
While both, remote work and telecommuting might have similar descriptions but there’s a slight difference. Working remotely means that the employee has no need to ever come into the onsite office space. While telecommuting denotes that there may be some work that requires the employee to come to the office occasionally.
It’s not a secret that employees thrive when working from home. Telecommuters tend to do their tasks on their own time and their own spaces such as coffee shops. Not only it increases morale but it increases productivity too. The same goes for businesses. Having telecommuters in the payroll drastically reduces the company overhead and other expenses.
Like it or not, telecommuting jobs are here to stay. In fact, it has been on the rise in the last few years. Millennial’s job search looks for organizations that offer telecommuting options. It is soon going to become the norm for the future workforce. Additionally, during times of crisis (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), telecommuting and work from home are bound to be adopted by many organizations.
While it might be a convenient option in these tough times, moving the entire workforce as telecommuters might be a challenging step. Here’s what leaders can do to make telecommuting an efficient process that’ll actually be better in the long run:
Tips To Manage Telecommuting Employees
1. Quality Communication Tools
The key behind employees to telecommute effectively is to set up some good communication practices in your company. Without a good flow of communication going back and forth, it will be difficult for teams to collaborate effectively.
Thankfully, nowadays, this isn’t going to be a problem. Our world is already designed to be everything accessible from home. This has resulted in some incredible communication tools to stay connected to each other.
Virtual meeting through Skype or Zoom. Slack to streamline the entire team’s workflow in one single platform. Or something like Microsoft Teams which allows you to have audio, video, and conferences both internally as well as externally (i.e. your clients).
Now that we have established that there is no shortage of tools, your main obstacle is going to get people to actually use it productively. Your communication plan should highlight:
- How and when employees will coordinate with the rest of their team?
- How employees are expected to handle customers/clients?
- A communication channel that can be accessed by everyone easily.
2. Monitor Performance Results
This will essentially achieve two things:
- After this particular flexible work period is over, such data can help you assess the pros and cons of such work arrangement as a possible permanent option.
- This data will also help you how each employee dealt with the crisis at hand.
- Also, it will help you in keeping a track of what worked and what didn’t. By doing so you will have a better Plan B in the future in case your workforce needs to go remote again.
The way through which you measure performance is based solely upon your company standards. Customer satisfaction might be one- how many customers your employees have managed to handle? One other measure might be sick days- your team takes more or less a number of sick days?
You can also judge the performance standards based on the number of key goals the remote employee has managed to accomplish. Does having a work from home job increase their efficiency and productivity? Do they deliver better results?
It’s important that you keep a track of the performance of each employee to judge whether they have been able to get the most out of their time through telecommuting. Global workplace analytics is an essential part of keeping up-to-date with the workflow of your employees.
3. Get Together
It need not be through a physical meeting but a virtual one works just fine. When a team works remotely, very often they might lose the camaraderie they have with each other. Subsequently, there might be a few instances where telecommuters feel that they are not an integral part of the organization.
Thus a meetup with the whole team by setting a particular time is extremely important. Collectively decide if any kind of team building activity or event can be done. This will help to build a community feeling- that they are in all these together- among team members.
4. Don’t Micromanage
I know this time will be crucial for managers or leaders wanting to micromanage what the telecommuters might be accomplishing. But it’s highly suggested that you don’t do it.
Telecommuting is all about having a work-life balance and once you start nitpicking your employee is not going to be too happy about it. The key factor here is to place a level of trust. In return, ask your employees to be transparent about their work done.
You can invest in some kind of project management tool, like Zoho, to ensure that the workers are delivering upon their given tasks and goals. Similarly, the adoption of a goal-setting framework such as the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) will be a more feasible way to ensure that everything is operating smoothly.
5. Find Out The Gaps In Access, Security, and Adopting New Practices
Now that it is inevitable for employees to work from home, it has become vital that there be lag or difficulty in using the required software or hardware for accomplishing their tasks on time.
Assess the comfort level of employees using tools such as video conferencing software. In case there is any confusion regarding the same, provide for some form of online training or course for them. Identify if any onsite office equipment is required and ask employees to shift it to their home office for the required period of time.
Similarly, once the entire workforce is working virtually through the not so safe Internet, it’s a good practice to close down any security loophole you might encounter. For this, you can take help from your IT Department or can even outsource it to another network security provider.
6. Move To A Saas-Based Model
Here’s the thing. Now that employees will work remotely there are bound to be issues such as low internet connectivity. However, this does have a simple solution. By moving your majority of business operations to a SaaS-based platform you will make accessibility a whole lot easier.
To the uninitiated, a SaaS-based platform or app allows you to not worry over things like server management, internet bandwidth or even security requirements because those platforms take care of it all for a certain amount of fee. Popular examples of such models are Dropbox Business and Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium.
Moving to a Saas based platform will allow even the most remote of your employees to work seamlessly. Not only will it increase employees’ productivity but also your overall business output will reveal positive results.
7. Recognition Is A Must
There is a common misconception that telecommuters don’t need the appreciation that the 9-5 employees need. The truth is a whole lot different.
Being a telecommuter is a lonely job in the sense that you are far removed from the usual social activities that connect a team together. That is why giving timely recognition to a telecommuting employee is even more crucial than ever.
Additionally, if your team is telecommuting due to an ongoing crisis, they might be going through a whole lot of emotional turmoil right now. In such turbulent times, displaying that your employees are an indispensable part of the organization will be just the right morale booster that everyone needs. So if you are a leader, be sure to appreciate your employees as you do so when they are working on-site.
Is your organization considering to offer a work-from-home or telecommuting options for your workforce? If you are hesitating, what’s holding you back? Tell us in the comments section!