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Managing Telecommuters For Optimal Efficiency

Telecommuting can improve morale and sustain productivity.

Head of Yahoo Marissa Mayer recently announced the company will no longer support telecommuting professionals, citing a lack of productivity. In response to the statement, many experts have been weighing on how telecommuting policies, when properly managed, are not only able to sustain the same levels of productivity that are seen in the office, but also boost performance. Employees who have the flexibility to work from home enjoy a stronger work-life balance and should be granted this freedom after demonstrating the necessary self-discipline and motivation to remain productive outside the office.

How does telecommuting fit into your company's culture? In what ways does your telecommuting policy enhance productivity?

Breakdown of Telecommuting Proliferation
The U.S. Census reveals in 2010, 13.4 million people worked at home at least one day per week, up from 4 million people 10 years earlier. With increased communication tools, cloud computing technology and advanced file-sharing capabilities, mobile solutions are keeping remote workers connected to other staff, partners and clients with access to real-time data. As consumer products such as smartphones and tablets are used more readily throughout the workday to conduct business and communications, and the ability to work outside the office is enhanced and supported with cloud-based platforms.

The Census also showed 25 percent of home-based workers work in business, management and financial occupations, as the industries function in a mobile-friendly environment. Computer, engineering and science industries, however, are increasingly adding telecommuting policies to allow for a mobile workforce and home-based employees. In 2010, remote work in computer, engineering and science occupations jumped 69 percent from 10 years prior.

Furthermore, research from Challenger, Gray & Christmas global outplacement provider indicates most companies plan to sustain their existing telecommuting policies as results indicate remote workers are productive. The study found:

  • 80 percent of human resources executives offer a telecommuting policy at their companies
  • 97 percent of this group has no plans to eliminate the practice
  • Nearly 10 percent of allow telecommuting for all workers
  • 40 percent offer telecommuting to some employees {rephrase}
  • 30 percent do not have a formal policy but allow for staff to work from home on a select number of days

The research indicated HR departments and managers are not wary of telecommuting capabilities, but rather want to develop formal strategies to monitor performance and create consistency in work-from-home practices.

Best Practices
When managing a team of workers who work in and out of the office, executives should understand their own responsibilities in ensuring telecommuting success. Because flexible workplace options improve employee satisfaction, executives should embrace the practice when workers demonstrate the capability to perform remotely. To help workers be successful outside the office, managers must offer appropriate technology to equip staff with necessary tools to complete their responsibilities. For example, face-to-face interactions with clients and partners can still be conducted at half the price via video conferencing technology on a cloud-based platform.

In addition, executives should focus on experimenting with different work-from-home policies, monitor performance and select certain policies for both management and staff to follow. The more comprehensive and well-thought-out telecommuting strategy a company has, the more likely staff will follow protocol and remain consistent both in and out of the office. Such a strategy should include clear goals and expectations for staff when working remotely, as well as a continual channel of communication between workers and supervisors so everyone is up-to-date and working together. When the expectations of a remote worker are unclear, staff may fail to communicate properly and productivity may suffer. Work together to establish rules that work for both managers and workers.

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