Three years ago, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer dropped a bombshell on her employees – no more working from home.
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by side,” read the leaked internal memo from the company. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
And while some companies took that high-profile opportunity to follow suit and order all hands back on deck, the reality is that telecommuting is not a dying concept. Instead it’s frequently greatly valued by employees, and in some cases it’s even a business necessity. But it is a highly misunderstood concept and is frequently mismanaged.
Telecommuting isn’t about slacking off on the company dime (as it is often perceived); it’s about offering employees flexibility and a better work-life balance. But remote workers still need to be effectively managed.
Communicate. In the office, day-to-day communication is a given and is often taken for granted. With telecommuters, good communication is a must to ensure that everyone is always on the same page. Whether that means scheduling weekly conference calls, talking via video conference calls or using instant messaging to chat throughout the day, using technology for regular communication with remote teams is a critical component to success.
Set clear expectations. Make sure that everyone knows his or her role and responsibilities, are on the same page and has the tools needed to succeed. Then trust your team to do the work you’ve sent them off to do but don’t forget to check in regularly.
Make the effort to get to know your team. Unlike in the office environment where everyone gets to know everyone else, telecommuting can be isolating. Take the time to get to know your employees even though you don’t see them on a regular basis. Not only does it show that you’re interested, it can also help you understand their career motivations.
Managing telecommuters is similar to managing employees in an office environment. The difference is in the lack of visibility. In the office, it’s easy to have quick one-on-one talks and to check in to ensure that expectations are being met – with telecommuters; managers need to make the extra effort so that everyone feels like part of the team.