Telecommuting has been gaining traction among businesses worldwide. Many are recognizing its benefits and are trying to take advantage of how modern technology is making it possible for people around the world to work from home. The setup is far from perfect, though. That’s why it’s necessary to carefully evaluate it before and during implementation.
Evaluation does not only apply when the telecommuting scheme is already being carried out. For prudence, it’s recommended that you examine your telecommuting plan. Or to be more emphatic about it, you need to have a plan and review it.
Ask the following questions:
1. What are your goals in adopting a telework arrangement?
Is it to lower operating costs? Is it to hire skilled workers who would otherwise be inaccessible because of geographical limitations? Or is it simply because it’s what most other companies are doing? Adopting a remote work scheme is a major undertaking for any business so it should be decided upon with a good justification. If there’s no compelling reason to do it, then it’s probably not worth doing it.
2. Do you have the right people to oversee it?
An effective manager is a must for any business that tries telecommuting. It’s not going to be easy dealing with employees who are not physically present in the same workplace, especially if they are in different time zones and they have varied cultural backgrounds.
3. Is there a logical and clear delegation of tasks and laying out of expectations?
As much as possible, you have to come up with a written manual of operations. This will serve as a guide not only for the management but for everyone to know what is expected of them. This manual also provides an unambiguous reference on what to do for specific situations. Having a written plan is like being fully aware and certain of how the system operates and how to troubleshoot problems as they emerge.
4. Are there prepared solutions or mechanisms to address incidental problems?
It’s important to ascertain that the telecommuting setup has a comprehensive plan or protocol to guide not only the core operations but also contingencies. One of the things that attract people to telecommute is the flexibility of working hours. This flexibility, however, poses a major challenge in management. How does a manager meet employee expectations of flexibility when they also have to organize and coordinate everything to work according to schedules and business expectations?
5. Is there a sensible system for employee issue resolution?
Telecommuting provides several advantages, but the absence of employee issues is not one of them. Problems such as absenteeism, the failure to meet deadlines, or poor work quality can happen. Likewise, telecommuters themselves may also have issues to raise against the management such as delayed pay or poor communication and coordination that result in problems in work output. Before implementing a telecommuting arrangement, it’s essential to address all of these.
6. Are there enough high caliber applicants?
You can’t adopt teleworking just because you decided to do it when you don’t have a good number of quality applicants to choose from. Making do with the available far-
If you are confident with your answers to these questions, the telecommuting program can go ahead without or with only minimal setbacks. Just make sure that your answers are compelling and are practical. For example, how do you answer #5 above? It does not make sense to say that your policy is to automatically fire a teleworker for underperforming or for raising a complaint on the way you manage the team.
Once you have determined that your teleworking scheme is good enough to be implemented, you have to do another evaluation while it proceeds as planned. Use the following guide.
1. Take note of all concerns and potential issues that arise on the very first day, then compile observations periodically.
You don’t have to wait for a month or a week to come up with your observations. There are significant details you can pinpoint as you work with your teleworking team on the first day. These include the technical glitches, the efficiency issues of the workflow used, as well as the attitude of employees in dealing with their colleagues, bosses, and clients.
Of course, not all issues can be accurately captured on a day-to-day observation. There are some that require a span of time to establish a trend or an informed conclusion. The effectiveness of a penalty or incentive program, for example, cannot be assessed based on daily snapshots of the team. That’s why you have to produce eventually a periodic (monthly or quarterly) report on the issues noted.
2. Don’t peg the effectiveness of your telecommuting setup entirely on the productivity of teleworkers.
Don’t forget to also take into account employee concerns and complaints. Some may find the frequent requests for updates, for example, suffocating. Others may want to have more interaction with their managers or supervisors. Always strive to have teleworkers who deliver on their responsibilities and are happy with what they are doing. High productivity can be achieved with extremely strict protocols, arduous deadlines, and close supervision, but it is usually unsustainable in the long run.
3. Take note of the positives.
When scrutinizing your remote working arrangement, don’t be too fixated on the adverse details. It helps to notice the good things, the outcomes that move according to the plan. This is not only for the sake of motivation. It is also a way of finding things that can be maximized to help improve the overall performance of the telecommuting team.
For instance, in a content generation remote work team, if the compulsory interaction between authors and editors is producing positive results, the same policy can be employed elsewhere. This approach can be used to break up siloing (and eliminate its unwanted effects) in other teams.
4. Were the targets achieved and plans adhered to?
This is the main task of doing an evaluation, which calls for a careful comparison of projected accomplishments and actual output. Statistics, charts, graphs, and other presentations are going to be extremely useful for this. It can help to communicate the comparison of targets and actual accomplishments to employees to motivate them (if they delivered well) or oblige them to do better (if they underperformed). There may be instances when employees contest the details of their reported output. They may have done better than what is written in the report, so it’s a good opportunity to reconcile the details
5. Collaboratively analyze problem areas.
Managers don’t always have the best analysis and solutions for the problems they encounter. Even the most proficient and experienced managers can miss some details that significantly affect the quality of solutions they formulate to resolve issues. To make sure that the root cause of problems are identified and resolved, it is advisable to work with the employees themselves.
The failure to meet quotas or deadlines, for example, may not be because of the volume of work assigned (as how some teleworkers would claim). It could be due to inefficiencies on the part of the employees or their lack of knowledge in certain efficiency-boosting techniques. Inversely, it could also be due to the management overworking their remote workers or asking them to do tasks without sufficient training. It’s essential to have an open mind and to be free from biases when collaboratively scrutinizing problems. Don’t presume that it’s the indolence of workers, procrastination, or an inherently faulty workflow. Objectively seek out the causes of problems by sincerely working with your employees.
6. Come up with pre-made tests for teleworkers.
Depending on the kind of tasks you are dealing with, it is possible to have tests that can be administered whenever necessary to check if employees are doing what is expected of them. A random interview, for example, can be conducted to find out if teleworkers is properly acquainted with the software, hardware, and methods they are using. They could be performing poorly because they need more training, but they refuse to acknowledge their inadequacy. They may also be required to log in to a time tracking platform to ascertain that they are indeed working on their assigned tasks.
7. Scrutinize employees’ sense of accountability.
This is not an easy metric to gauge, but it’s worth examining. Teleworkers who are committed to their jobs know how to be accountable for their actions. Those who confidently submit their output belatedly or habitually ignore prescribed procedures and formats like there’s nothing wrong are most certainly bereft of any sense of accountability. Similarly, those who regularly provide excuses to justify their failure to meet deadlines or quality requirements (with some even becoming creative with it) are unlikely to be committed to what they are doing.
Telecommuters who don’t have a sense of accountability are the kind of employees who merit dismissal, as they tend to make a telecommuting setup ineffective regardless of how thoughtfully the protocols and procedures were crafted. They deserve less priority in the assistance and second chances provided by the management.
Managing teleworkers is challenging. It is arguably more difficult than dealing with traditional office workers. Nevertheless, there are things managers can do to make the telecommuting arrangement work as desired and for businesses to reap its benefits.