Sunday, November 1, 2015

Keeping the Telecommuter on Task

By Philip Piletic
It is an exciting prospect to work from home. The advantage of not needing to race out the door to fight morning traffic would tempt anyone stuck in the daily grind. The savings in gas alone translates to a wage increase for many employees. There is no need to take a shower or even change out of those silky blue boxers. The living room, with the nice fluffy couch and wall-mounted television, makes for the perfect home office. All that's missing is a freezer filled with microwaveable delights. While the thought of living the telecommuter life seems like such a wonderful job opportunity, the trouble is in convincing the boss that the idea is sound. Many managers and company owners still hesitate to trust their employees with work-at-home positions; however, with the right checks and balances, adding a telecommuter work program may prove to enhance employee performance.

Some Hidden Benefits

One of the great things about telecommuters is that they do not take up any additional office space. Immediately, it is easy to see how a healthy telecommuter program could save companies huge in office space rental costs.

According to this source, 37% of IT professionals would take a 10 percent decrease in wages in exchange for the opportunity to work from home. During flu season, a telecommuter is less likely to transmit or receive a flu bug anywhere near the office. This means this type of worker is at less of a risk of missing work. Sure, sometimes you might miss chatting with your colleagues, but this way you can also easily escape the annoying ones and focus on your task without disruptions of the noisy office. Since they work at home anyway, feeling too sick to come in is not much of an excuse for avoiding doing their work. 

In addition, telecommuters have an incentive to stay on top of their work. They know that to slack off could force them to lose their coveted, flexible job opportunity. This gives the powers that be a lot of leverage with subordinates who choose to telecommute. On the other side, it’s also fair to invest in your work-from-home employees. 

One thing you need to be certain of as an employer, is that your workers will be self-sufficient when left to work from home. For this reason, it makes sense to give them all the tools needed in order to stay connected with them, such as smartphone, laptop, access to company’s Cloud and similar. Also, huge percent of the work will probably be done using computer, internet and other modern tech, and for this reason it’s better if one is confident in his abilities rather than spending half a day trying to figure out a solution to a simple problem with his PC. Company paid IT courses are often a good investment in their workforce, and obtaining a certificate like Microsoft MCTS is a useful addition to any resume.

The Ground Rules

In order for a company to maintain a healthy telecommuter program, there must be a few pointed ground rules for employees to abide by.

      A telecommuter would need to be easily reachable during normal working hours.

      A boss or manager would need to be able to check up on the employee throughout the work day to obtain a proper sense of the work being performed or the progress being made with tasks.

      Deadlines would have to be consistently met in a timely manner to ensure that performance is not slacking.

      An employee would need to sign and agree contractually to an acceptance of disciplinary actions for failing to comply with work-at-home policies and procedures.

With the proper ground rules and communication protocols in place, this provides managers, supervisors and company owners with additional leverage to maintain control over their work-at-home employees. In some ways, this improves communication to such a point that telecommuters work out better than in-house employees.

Keeping an Eye on Telecommuters

If a company is supplying the smartphones, tablets, and computers being used in telecommuter-based operations, then these devices should have compliance measures built in for monitoring employee activities. If a telecommuter has not touched their company issued devices all day, this could alert a manager to contact an off-site employee to determine what they are really doing on company time. According to Business Insider, it is a good idea to require work-at-home employees to use an instant message service to give further indication that they are near their computer working. If a manager is ever in doubt, simply message for detailed progress and force accountability by making them explain their accomplishments. Asking them to send over copies of what they have accomplished, to confirm they are being honest, helps to keep work-at-home employees on their toes as well. Since many telecommuting jobs are team oriented, failure of one employee to consistently receive what they need from another worker is a key sign that something is amiss with an off-site employees rate of performance.

Conclusion

Although it is possible for telecommuters to cheat the system and slack off at home, modern technology makes it equally possible to monitor work-at-home employee activities more closely than in years past. From communication protocols to software that checks up automatically on progress being achieved, bosses, managers and supervisors will be able to keep telecommuting employees under their thumb with increased precision.

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