Telecommuting seems to be a mixed bag of benefits and problems in the minds of many employers but it doesn’t have to be. If implemented and managed carefully, working from home could offer nothing but benefits for the right people.
We have a lot of experience with telecommuting here at Timesheets.com – many of our employees telecommute and we offer software that makes it easier to manage telecommuters.
Some fears with regard to telecommuting include:
- Employees won’t actually work
- Lack of face to face contact
- Reduced productivity
- Difficulty in management
None of these fears need to be a reality, though, if the right people are chosen to work from home in the right amounts, with proper direction.
Avoiding Telecommuting Pitfalls
- Keep track of what your employees do – Have them track their time on tasks or just leave detailed notes at the end of the day when they clock out. This is really easy with our software as we offer project tracking, which tracks all the various jobs employees do throughout the day. Additionally, both hourly and project tracking contains a notes field that gets attached to each record.
- Keep in touch on Skype, the phone, and chat – Simply getting on the phone for 5 or 10 minutes a day to go over objectives can keep employees centered and motivated. Setting up a chat system that employees keep open on their computers helps with on-the-fly communication. If employees are available to answer questions at any given moment, it’s not much different from being down the hall.
- Measure productivity against other team members – This can be done with performance reviews or a productivity board. At our company we use our own Brags and Breakthroughs productivity board to post things we’ve accomplished. Each one of us posts something on there each day. This is a great way to keep employees informed and accountable for their time.
- Stay organized – Managers should have a plan for motivating employees and stay connected to their progress. Leaving employees totally on their own can lead to disengagement. Keep initiatives up to date and have a way that you can stay in the loop with your employee’s work.
- Be picky about who works from home – Working from home just isn’t the right situation for the social butterfly. Employees like these may be in the wrong company if remote work is all that’s offered. Employees who are not self starters that generally need extra prodding to keep them working might do better in an office as well.
- Offer part time remote work – Most studies have shown that most employees do best when they work from home some days and at the office on other days. If this isn’t an option, make sure your employees are self-starters and highly motivated individuals.
The New York Times reported on a study last year that Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, conducted.
“He teamed up with Ctrip, China’s largest travel agency, to test some ideas about telecommuting. Over nine months, about 250 workers volunteered for the experiment; half were randomly chosen to work at home and half in the office.
At the end of the experiment, employers found that the home-based employees worked more than office workers — 9.5 percent longer — and were 13 percent more productive. They also were judged to be happier, as quitting rates were cut in half.”
Ctrip saved a lot of money during the experiment but once it was over, “50 percent of those who worked at home asked to come back to the office. They said they were lonely and didn’t like being passed over for promotion.”
These results make it clear that working remotely isn’t for everybody and that should be considered in the overall telework strategy.