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Let me use an alternate example: In my company, people in our PA HQ did this work. But, we also had people located in several other states doing identical work. Sometimes, the remote people worked alone. Frequently, remote employees worked from home or in a shared office where they were the only ones doing this job e.
We used these remote arrangements because they made business sense at many levels what's more old school than that? We aimed to hire employees best suited to our needs but couldn't always find them locally. We also benefited from the remote worker's superior business knowledge of a more local geographic market, we avoided the family disruption and costs of relocating people to HQ, and we scored consistently well on employee satisfaction measures.
Performance measurement for remote workers was the same as for HQ employees. Potential downsides, though, include limits on employee professional growth, getting promoted when management doesn't "see" you daily, and a higher chance of problems if the manager doesn't pay attention. We've had remote employees for at least 20 years. Perhaps it's positive adverse selection but they have generally been among our best performers and turnover is very low.
Interestingly, we have done several acquisitions in recent years. The expansion of our customer base required an expansion of the credit and collections team by integrating employees from the acquired firms.
The unit manager of the most recently acquired group is old school. He wants to know what time people arrive and leave, if they spend too long at lunch, gossip too frequently at the water cooler, etc. He didn't see how he could possibly manage someone without that level of daily interaction and insight. In my view, that is a negative reflection on his managerial skills and his confidence about those skills.
As your comment hints, the world is changing and the population of virtual workers is growing. As managers, we can either adapt, embrace and lead this change to give our business the maximum chance of succeess or we can wish for the good old days.
I'd rather look forward. Due to the nature of our work, in both the finance and client service area, we are limited with what can be done offsite.
That said we have a very clear telecommuting policy that starts with treatment as an approved exception when needed. As an example, the accounting department cannot process any credit cards externally as the only secure area is within our walls and through our secure fax line.
As they might be restricted from getting all of their normal daily work done, they have to know how their working remotely will impact their colleagues who have to shuffle work to allow them to be productive. Additionally, clear guidelines about what constitutes a telecommuting day are communicated in advance and these include both what is accomplished and how communication to the home office works.
I know that Kmart corporation, whose HQ used to be in my hometown, still has a few hundred people working locally from home. I have had to remind my current employer that those of us who 'leave on time' and then log-on from home are doing so to assist in getting work done and should not be assumed to do this all the time.
That has been my biggest hurdle as I don't see my bosses understanding how this is counterproductive to improving employee morale. I have been lucky that the high turnover has not been in my department and am hopeful that my repeating this mantra will eventually help them discover one of the reasons they suffer this turnover regularly.
I agree that the key to success is setting annual goals and having frequent status meetings. The weekly meetings gives him a chance to measure my progress and communicate any change in priorities.
I have a global position that requires frequent international conference calls early in the morning or very late at night, working from home and having a flexible work day makes these easier on me and my family which makes everyone happy. In my last role, we were a dispersed company.
The company was used to using telepresence and the like. Some employees many, in fact were full time remote, some part time, and some always in the office. It was always at the discretion of the manager; the manager was responsible for delivering results, and for having their people available during working hours. A "we can't find them, they're working from home" would not have gone over well and did not, when it seldom occurred.
In California at least, if you went home to care for a sick child, and I called you with a question, I will have breached the PTO guidelines. If you are getting charged with a PTO day, I can't have my cake not pay you and eat it too get some work out of you.
Further, to your premise, you do not need to be "fair" in the sense of having the same policy for everyone. You pay your managers to exercise their discretion, and so long as they follow the rules, "fairness" measured by "everyone has the same resources and constraints" is not a reasonable guideline. The reasonable guideline, imho, is "is the manager accountable, and are they providing a reasonable structure so that employees are productive.
The bottom line for their system is that voluntary turnover plummets and involuntary turnover skyrockets because you can almost immediately do away with your deadweight folks who may spend the requisite time at the office but don't perform. There's no easy answer to your question, but our office just went to this model, and we're having good results.
I worked at two organizations that had very inflexible work from home policies. All they did was create resentement among myself and my colleagues. In today's world an inflexible policy does not work. You are asking your workers to "do more with less" and any consideration that you afford them will "go miles" with them. I would advise a more flexible policy no matter how hard it will be "to sell" internally. I've been working from my home office since My first remote position lasted 3.
And, yes, monitoring industry discussion boards like Proformative is part of my job. My first remote post was for an outsource accounting firm where the majority of the staff and some of the execs were remote. My current employer, a non-profit focused on employee ownership and equity compensation, has the majority of the staff in the office and only my department the equity comp folks working remotely.
Here are my observations after 4. Keith Perry's comment above is right on point. Remote staff must be professionals in every sense of the word and must have demonstrated that they are capable of managing their own time, meeting deliverables, and working cooperatively before leaving the cube.
Jim Schwartz is on the money, too, when he allocates responsibility equally to the managers. Even the most seasoned professionals will feel abandoned if their managers are the "set it and forget it" type. Managers that know how to create relationships and that like mentoring will be much more successful in keeping remote workers engaged and on target.
Face time and recognition. When I first started working remotely I went into the office only for our annual all hands week, when we would do training and team building. My job was relatively independent of the rest of the team and time in office didn't really seem necessary. But about 1 year in, I had a family reason to be in town for a week, and arranged to spend working hours in the office.
I took the time to get to know the office-based team, take meetings with my boss and the other executives, and after that week was over I found that communication with everyone had improved and my ideas were being solicited. During my last 2. I also got some amazing work assignments, a great promotion and raise, and some challenging and enriching projects to manage during that period.
During my last 1. I can honestly say that those 1. During my first year of relative isolation mentioned above, I pretty much worked "to the clock. Once I became an engaged employee, I stopped looking at the clock and would work to my projects. Sometimes I worked 60 hrs a week, sometimes I worked In most states, the definition of an exempt employee often says something to the effect that if the work gets done then the hours don't matter, and that was how I worked.
I more often worked hr weeks than 40 hr weeks and, for me, the real danger was burn out. Fortunately my manager recognized that and worked with me to ensure that I got sufficient down time to stay healthy. By comparison, during the times that I would visit the office, my production usually plummeted because I could hear other staff having distracting personal calls, or standing in the cubeways visiting, or stopping by my cube for a visit, and to keep my projects on schedule I would go back to my lodging and work in the evenings, too.
In the end, it was much less of a distraction and much more productive for me to be working at my home office and occasionally changing a load of laundry during the week than to be at the office with unscheduled interruptions and regular break times.
Having a real home office setup is important for me. Here are my essentials: My first company provided all of those things to me, my current organization does not and I pay for everything.
Keith is also right on about the "fairness" issue. At the accounting firm we had a specific telecommuting policy that allowed any staff member to apply to work remotely and the decision would be made by the manager with the staff person based on the appropriateness of the person's job function and professional development. The managerial review process took care of the fairness issue. I hope this summary of my experience helps you understand the requirements for having successful remote workers.
Because of the projects I managed, I was pretty involved in many of the administrative details of the accounting firm, so I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have about how specific aspects of the situation were handled.
I love working remotely and, when appropriately managed, it really can boost a company's bottom line by reducing facilities costs and increasing staff productivity. I myself try to do everything in the office so I don't have to think about work on my personal time.
However, this last winter of snowstorm in my home town made me realized the importance to keep such a policy open. When you allow the work from home option at work, you are going to make sure the infrastructure supports that policy. That infrastructure will help in the case of business continuity such as the traffic issue in the snowstorm we have experienced. On a side note, my experience on why this doesn't work tend to be that companies haven't let it run it's course long enough.
Just like any new product out in the market, there are going to be some wrinkles that need to be ironed out. A lot of times it really depends on how much the parties involved are willing to stand behind it. This discussion raises some additional considerations from a risk management perspective, whether the remote work is done because of an unusual situation child sick or as the standard work location. If the work is done using a computer, and particularly the internet, what security is present on the employee's personal system?
Is it as comprehensive as at the work location? Do other people use the same computer, and are they as conscientious about not visiting "dangerous" sites as the employee hopefully is? Is it possible the employee will save their work on a CD or flash drive and bring an infection into the company when they load their files to their work PC? Will the work be done using a wifi set-up? If so, will it be done at home or at a coffee shop? Is the coffee shop's wifi set-up secure?
Is there a wifi next door that reaches into the coffee shop's premises and is used to "steal" sensitive information such as passwords, credit card information, or other personal information?
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