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Managing Strategies For Telework - The Virtual Workforce

Mar 19, 2008
The freedom and independence of working from home for professionals can be the Christmas Wish that finally came to be. This absolute desire to Telework requires managing strategies that adapt for the virtual workforce. In 2005 approximately 22.2 million Americans teleworked, that is they worked from home or another location distinct from their main office. According to The Telework Coalition, this stat increased 30% from 2004. Given environmental concerns and the desire for Professionals and Companies to seek out productive alternatives to the standard way of growing a business, this figure will surely increase in the years ahead.

Close examination of the advantages and disadvantages of Teleworking reveal the potential obstacles as well as opportunities both Management and the Teleworker may face.

Fundamental advantages for the Teleworker are:

1. First and foremost is the absolute savings in precious time and commuting costs.

2. With the saving of time normally lost on the commute, the Teleworker can get off to a quicker start in the morning, using that time more efficiently.

3. Reduced Absenteeism due to the flexibility factor.

4. The self starter, which would be a trait of the Teleworker, would have the freedom to plan their work tasks to perfectly fit their day.

5. Without the commute and with the ability to tackle their tasks without intrusion, the

6. Teleworker may experience higher job satisfaction.

Disadvantages the Teleworker may face:

1. Without a separate home and work environment, the Teleworker may come to feel they are never away from their work.

2. Family and all the distractions that come with them are inevitable, therefore the Teleworker must learn to fairly divide their time between the two.

3. Strangely enough, overworking when working from home can happen. The Teleworker does not begin nor end their day the way the average worker does, so their is discipline required in knowing when to "shut down".

4. Being away from the office can cause the Teleworker to be less aware of changes in the company.

5. The Teleworker may be concerned that they will not receive their proper share of guidance and expertise from management, being that they are not physically visible everyday.

6. Of course, there's the feeling of being isolated that can overwhelm as well.

Tips for how to Manage Teleworkers:

The Virtual Office, Staying Connected: The proper use of technology can assist the virtual worker in feeling connected to the staff and provide them with a sense of collective problem solving. Utilizing tools such as Internet Seminars, PowerPoint, Online Meetings, Workshops and Remote PC Access, are some of the teleworking tools available today. Clearly this technology has been available for years and employers are just now getting a sense of their powerful benefits.

Virtual face time is another real asset of these technologies as they are able to see and hear their co-workers. The video and audio conference call are ideal for tools for this. So finding ways to implement video conference calls, is important.

As indicated above, the Virtual Worker can feel isolated. Therefore, management must make an active effort to stay in communication with the teleworker. It could be as simple as acknowledging their accomplishment on a project via a complimentary email, or the occasional phone call to say hello and review projects coming up. Probably the most important aspect of this is for management to be sincere and meaningful when they contact the teleworking employee.

Have the IT Department ready to help with the computer crisis that may overcome your virtual worker. Just because they are not in the office, doesn't mean their broken computer drives them less crazy.

Choose the Right Type of People to be Teleworkers: Sounds simple right. Choosing the independent minded, self starter who can take a task from A to Z without their hand being held through the process, is a great start. If you're not making a lateral move with someone, and are hiring for a Telework position from the outside, people with a background in consulting, Independent Contracting, Sales and Marketing are a brief example of individuals who can possess the fundamental traits for Teleworking.

Management must Trust their Decision that they Selected the Right Person for a Telework Position: If you call and the teleworker is not at their desk, don't assume they're "loafing around". They could be taking a break, stretching their legs, or having lunch. Distractions at the office are plentiful, such as personal emails, water cooler chit chat, be-laboring issues, and more, so always keep in mind that getting the job done is a lot more important than where the job gets done. Trust your decisions, and allow your Teleworker the space you've given them.
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