Last year, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s ban on working from home created a furor across corporate circles. While she believed it was the right policy for Yahoo!, there are a number of companies who are strong advocates of workplace flexibility. And rightly so! A 2011 study by WorldAtWork found that most U.S. companies offered their employees the choice of working from home. Not just that, the study found higher rates of flexibility led to a lower employee turnover rate.
The benefits of telecommuting can be plentiful- cutting overheads, motivating employees, saving on commuting time- to mention a few, especially for small businesses. But, as Marissa Mayer put it, “Some of the best decisions and insights come from the hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.” So how can you maintain the same level of interaction when most employees are miles apart from each other? Communication, communication, communication- is what experts say is the way ahead!
Managing work-from-home employees
It can be challenging to manage employees who are spread out across the country and globally. For small businesses, hiring employees who will be working from home can save money but reaching out to these far-flung employees can be quite a task for without meticulous planning and organization. With telecommuting increasingly taking over as the best way to work, here are some ways to manage not-at-office employees.
Pick and choose employees to fit
Hiring employees who will be a right fit with the job and the company is important. In a report by The Hartford, Marten Mickos, CEO of cloud software maker Eucalyptus Systems emphasizes on the qualities telecommuters should possess. He believes people who are OK working alone, have hobbies outside of work and have a passion for the written word make good telecommuters. Employees’ goals should resonate with those of the business to make workplace flexibility a success.
Be communication driven
Mickos believes creating a virtual communication platform in the absence of physical interaction is essential to get the employees talking. And with a multitude of instant messaging services, online apps and networking platforms accessible to all employees, communicating with everyone is only a click away.
Aetna Inc., a health insurance company based in Connecticut, has 47 per cent of its employees working from home full time. Dan DeLucia, a vice president at an Aetna unit has been working from his Syracuse home for nine years. According to him there is more communication when it’s online rather than face to face. Communication is definitely not hindered when an employee works from home.
Develop your business to be more transparent
One of the guidelines by the U.S. General Services Administration in their resources for managing telecommuters is to be transparent in all dealings with employees to make sure they know the work status. This also makes it easier to monitor performance. Mickos recommends ‘opening the kimono’- let employees know what’s happening in the company and making confidentiality a necessary clause.
Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, co-founders of CultureRx, in a piece for The New York Times, have some suggestions on how to manage teleworkers. In their words- Focus on managing the work, not the people. People can manage themselves. Get clear on what needs to get done and how it’s being measured, and stop managing how and where people do it. If they don’t deliver, they’re out. No results? No job. Some great advice for small businesses! Having such an approach will be sure to lead to growth in the future.
Elvis Donnelly, a father of two who works from home and lives with his wife. He is a voracious reader and likes to keep abreast of current affairs on personal finance, technology and innovation, and takes a keen interest in environmental issues. In his spare time, he loves taking on home improvement projects and considers himself a closet chef.