There are a lot of reasons to telecommute: time isn’t lost on travel, there is no need to spend money on gas and fares, and working from home without distractions can be very productive. But there are major challenges as well. Some people do not work well without supervision or on-site guidance, collaboration becomes more difficult, and teambuilding can become a tricky task.
But in this economy, finding ways to save on overhead, office space, and travel costs is a must. So if telecommuting becomes the answer, the next step is to find ways to improve collaboration, track progress, and build team spirit remotely. Here are a few tips that can help a company succeed with a telecommuting strategy:
- Require more detail in reports. Employees almost universally hate reports. Why write a report when there’s work to be done? But when telecommuting is the norm, reports become more important in tracking progress and goals. Explain why weekly, detailed reports on priorities, progress, and goals are important and consistently give feedback. Reports are efficient ways to understand priorities.
- Use project management software. Collaboration is vital in any small business, but it can be lost when employees are telecommuting. Help foster collaboration with a strong project management software. It will help organize information and make it easy to see what is in progress. Assigning tasks and time frames becomes easier as well. Start by checking out Basecamp by 37signals.
- Use Skype. Skype has transformed communication and conferencing. Phone conversations are fine, but face-to-face interaction is still important, even in telecommuting. Try to conduct conference calls by video and have one-on-one Skype time with employees at least once a week.
- Hire people driven by exceeding goals. Results are expected in business, but if an employee can get the priorities of the week done in two days, what happens then? Great employees who love their jobs will want to do more work and exceed goals. Make sure those people are the ones that are telecommuting. Check in on how they spend their day to be sure they are using their time efficiently.
- Make time for company fun. The loneliness and isolation of telecommuting can be overwhelming for some employees, so offer outlets for talking with other members of the team and plan regular events that bring everybody together, outside of work. Bowling, cooking dinner, and sports are all ways to build relationships between team members. This is even more important in telecommuting companies. But be sure to understand the personality of each employee. A loner sometimes requires space, not a ski trip.
Utilizing collaboration tools and keeping people accountable will make managing telecommuting employees an easier task. When implemented properly, the savings and production brought about by telecommuting can be eye-opening.