Why Telecommuting Should Be Part of Your HR Strategy
It’s not hard to sell the benefits of telecommuting to employees; it’s the employers who need convincing that working from home can actually translate into increased profits.
According to a recent Families and Work Institute’s National Study of Employers, the number of employers offering a flexible work place increased from 34 percent to 63 percent between 2005 and 2012, indicating the option of telecommuting is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Telecommuting offers many benefits to an employer, including increased employee satisfaction, reduction in operating costs and the ability to tap into a broader talent base – one no longer limited by geography.
Two Essential Strategies for Managing Telecommuting Workers
The keys to successful telecommuting are as much in the hands of the employer as the employee. The onus is on employers to treat remote workers in the same manner they would on-site employees, but with an emphasis on increased communication and time management. It’s important to approach these aspects – arguably the biggest challenges of remote working – in a collaborative manner, to avoid giving your employee the impression you don’t trust them or that you are “spying” on them.
The technologies that have made it possible for employees to take their workplace home have also made it possible for employers to bring the home office into the work place. The quality and availability of video conferencing is the biggest step for telecommuting; and it’s important that an employer make use of this tool to ensure frequent and productive communication between remote workers and on-site teams.
Telecommuting offers many benefits to an employer, including increased employee satisfaction, reduction in operating costs and the ability to tap into a broader talent base
Google Hangouts and Skype are obvious tools for easy collaborative communication, but if you have a team that needs more consistent face-to-face time, try out Sqwiggle. Designed to bring telecommuting teams together as if they were working in the same office, Sqwiggle operates as a Brady Bunch-style dashboard displaying regularly updated screenshots of all team members. When you need to collaborate, just click on a picture and you are instantly brought into a live discussion. Adding more members to the conversation is as easy as clicking on their picture.
While most video conferencing options also include instant messaging capabilities, those are all too often a portal to distractions outside the workspace. Creating a dedicated chat/messaging client for your workforce can help minimize distractions and keep everyone focused on the tasks at hand, as well as seamlessly connected to each other whether inside or outside the building.
Internet Relay Chat is the oldest and arguably the easiest multi-user, multi-channel chatting system. It is also completely cross-platform being available as a web-based program or through numerous highly customizable IRC clients for Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and Linux.
2: Track Time
When you see your employee sitting at his or desk you can assume they are working (at least 80 percent of the time). That’s a lot harder to do with remote workers. However, with the help of time tracker apps you can not only feel secure in the knowledge that your employee is at his or her desk when necessary, but you can also build a clear picture of your entire workforce’s productivity.
This can be a huge help in targeting areas for improvement. For example if you have a graphic designer who spends 70 percent of his time in his email program dealing with client correspondence and only 20 percent of his time in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, you’ve identified a problem and can now figure out how to fix it.
The onus is on employers to treat remote workers in the same manner they would on-site employees, but with an emphasis on increased communication and time management
The following programs offer varying levels of depth for remote workers and their managers to track time. Whether you want to drill down to exact minutes spent on specific facets of certain projects or just ensure an employee is using Excel all day and not Facebook, one of these should fit the bill. Some offer the option to block certain websites and to take random screenshots of an employee’s desktop throughout the day and send them back to the manager. There is a fair amount of controversy about this among remote workers, but there are many settings to tinker with to ensure privacy where necessary, and in essence it’s no different from looking over an employee’s shoulder from the comfort of the corner office.
Time Doctor tracks each task the user sets up separately and matches it with relevant projects. It offers reminders, telling employees when they should be working on the next project, and it confirms if time tracked was really worked. The program also records application and Internet usage for all users during work time, sending managers a weekly report that details time spent on emails, chat, websites visited and application categories used. Time Doctor takes screenshots when team members record that they are working.
HiveDesk uses “visual productivity data reports,” gathered each time a screenshot is captured, enabling you to monitor the efficiency of each work session. Remote workers can check-in and check-out throughout a work day allowing them to take breaks without having to notify you when they return. They can easily switch projects and HiveDesk tracks how much time they spend on each project. Screenshots are taken randomly throughout a work session allowing you to perform random audits ensuring that your workers are on task and not distracted.
This is purely a time tracker, with limited monitoring capabilities. If you are just interested in seeing a picture of where your remote worker’s time is spent, without the other bells and whistles, this is a good option. It is also an all-in-one tool for companies that need to create invoices for clients based on hours employees work.
MySammy is a reporting service that gives you information about how time is spent on a computer, it doesn’t record screenshots but instead collects a minimum amount of data for management evaluation, presenting it in simple graphs and charts. It works across mobile, desktop and tablets, making it especially effective for remote workers who are not tied to a desk all day. However it is not currently compatible with iOS or Mac OS.
If you work with telecommuters, what do you find is your biggest challenge as a manager?
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