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Tips for Managing Telecommuters

Jul 18, 2008
More workers than ever are working from home or other remote sites. This trend has historically been driven by improved technology that allowed workers to do many of their office functions from home. Recently the move has accelerated, driven by a desire to reduce traditional commuting because of rising gas prices and concerns for the environment.

Running a team of remote workers can be a challenge. This is not a traditional team and traditional management principles will often fail. Managers have to adopt new strategies to keep the project on track.

Work as a Team

Remote workers can easily lose sight of team objectives. If they never see any more of the project than their own contributions, they won't synchronize well with the efforts of others. Look for opportunities for remote workers to work with each other. Rather than assigning many individual projects, create team-oriented tasks that require work from several people.

An online workspace allows each worker to see the big picture and how all of the pieces fit together. They can see themselves as a piece of the overall plan rather than just an individual meeting deadlines.

Synchronize Schedules

Many of your workers want to use telecommuting as a way to work from their own hours. This can be a positive move as some people work better under different circumstances. One worker might be better doing a few hours each day seven days a week while another worker prefers putting in four 10-hour days and having a long weekend.

While this can have a positive effect on individual effort it can erode the effectiveness of the team. Set forth times each week, or even each day, during which all workers will be expected to be available. This allows even workers on disparate schedules to collaborate.

This is another area that an online workspace can help people coordinate. By looking at each other's calendars they can coordinate their efforts and not worry about interrupting their colleagues during personal time. Weekly meetings are another option to keep everyone together. Encourage staff to show up in person but require at least that people teleconference in.

Use Technology to Organize

Digital communication has become so easy that there is little difference between communicating with someone in the office next door and someone on the other side of the world. Rather than using disparate communication methods such as telephone and email, coordinate team efforts with an online workspace. Project collaboration is easier when everyone can not only see the schedule but can see discussions about the project whenever they need to.

Communicating through an online project management tool such as an extranet has the benefit that people can look at just the information they need rather than wading through emails about every detail of the project.

Finally, an online workspace makes it easy to collaborate on tasks through online file sharing. By sharing files in a single space, you reduce the danger of multiple versions of a document circulating and creating confusion.
About the Author
Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on Team
Collaboration
, visit http://www.projectspaces.com.
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