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Can Working Remotely Work?

Posted on March 11, 2010
HeliosWritten by Helios | Email author

Samantha Byrd, HR Business Partner

With ubiquitous intranet connectivity, advanced telecommunication and networking technology, employer initiatives for work life balance, shrinking travel budgets, and disaster preparedness planning, many professionals are logging in, signing on, pinging, tweeting, or connecting to networks from home offices, hotel rooms, telecommuting locations or handhelds.

How can working remotely work?

Remote workforces are neither a reward for good behavior or for stellar performance. They are a business necessity. The opportunity to work remotely should not be a reward for good behavior or stellar performance. The case for working remotely is simple: it meets a business objective that impacts the bottom line. As with managing any team, the following key points highlight how to maximize performance of remote work teams.

Have confidence in your management staff – a major reason many companies resist having remote workers is that they are concerned their management teams will not effectively monitor and motivate remote workers. Managing a remote workforce is not significantly different from managing workers in an office, but requires a greater emphasis on regular, formal communication.

Have confidence in your workforce – provide opportunities for your employees and managers to gradually test remote work arrangements. Start with one day a week, or specific “assignments” to complete remotely. Where employees demonstrate effective performance, managers should encourage and support remote work.

Document performance requirements – communicate clear expectations. Managing a remote workforce is not just about when they are supposed to be at work but what the performance expectations are as well.

Provide the right tools – Software companies have flooded the market with portals, platforms, intranet tools and social networks to meet the needs of companies with remote workers. In addition, employers should ensure the appropriate hardware tools are available to support remote workers. Security and backup protocols may need to be formalized or customized.

Communication is key – There is no water cooler for the remote workforce – no informal communication, no quick project updates in the hall, no popping into your co-worker’s office to share a creative idea. Make sure your remote workforce knows how to connect, whether by phone, email, IM, or tweet.

Manage, manage, manage – remote workforces require increased frequency of contact, and scheduled check-ins. Ensure job requirements and performance expectations are clear. Initially, daily deliverables on specific tasks may be useful. Employees and managers should feel part of a team as if they were in the office. At a minimum, scheduled weekly one-on-one meetings with each employee are a best practice.

There are some added positive side effects to the business case for the remote workforce. Working remotely can benefit your employees who will put in more productive hours and experience fewer sick days. Remote working also removes cars from the road, thereby having a positive effect on the environment and moving your company toward green business practices.

So can working remotely work? Yes, just be prepared, execute, and communicate and you can reap the rewards

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