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How do I manage off-site employees?

How do I manage off-site employees?

Advanced technology has led to an increase in the number of employees who work outside of traditional office settings.

For the employee, telecommuting or working off-site eliminates the stress, time and costs associated with getting to work. Additionally, telecommuting provides flexibility in hours and dress. For the employer, it's cheaper to pay for the technology needed at home, some or all of which may already be owned by the employee, than it is to provide full-time office space.

But for managers responsible for such workers' performance, telecommuters present a number of challenges. Many managers don't trust what they don't see or haven't been trained on how to monitor and guide those at home

Communication is key. Regularly scheduled conference calls or videoconferencing combined with goal setting and follow-up on action items is a good way to get in the loop with people you manage remotely.

Companies are increasingly measuring employee performance and activity. For example, salespeople are often responsible for tracking client calls, meetings and pending deals, in a sales force automation software. Regardless of where the person sits geographically, the manager is able to keep up on what's happening now, what has happened already and what might happen.

Telecommuting is a perk employees want, yet many managers aren't jumping on the bandwagon.

You might consider pay for performance model rather than one base on hours worked. Don't worry about whether the employee is putting in 40 hours, just focus on rewarding people for completing agreed tasks regardless of the number of hours it took. A telecommuting employee can often get the same amount of work done in less time than office workers, because there are fewer distractions and interruptions.

Many telecommuters like to work early-morning hours (perhaps before the kids get up) or late into the evening, but they still need to be reachable during normal work hours. Set up a phone or email policy so the employee can be contacted if necessary, even if they may not be on the job at that time.

Be sure that on-site employees know they can contact the telecommuters as readily as you can. Make sure they feel like they are just down the hall.

Have those who work at home full-time come into the office periodically. Team building and rapport can happen regardless of face time, but there's no substitute for occasional person-to-person interaction.

If employees request an off-site or telecommute working arrangement and you have concerns, agree on a trial period. After the trial period ends, you can both assess how the situation is working.

Once managers can trust off-site workers to get results, they often see the benefits of telecommuting. With the technology of today, there are many ways for managers to communicate with telecommuting employees so embrace it and see how it can be added as part of your company benefits package.