How to Telework

Now that you're prepared to work from home, you need to ask your boss. Here are few helpful hints to get you started:

Research and preparation
First, check your employee handbook or contact your HR department to determine whether your company already offers a teleworking program. If so, you could be half way there.

If your company doesn't have such a policy or it's believed that these activities are frowned upon, you might try seeking individuals you know who were successful in working out the arrangement.

Be prepared to address your capabilities and the tasks that your job lends to teleworking. Be sensible in determining how much time you can afford to spend doing solitary work at home and how much face-time you need with coworkers. It might be reasonable for you to work from home three times a week or once a month.

Put it in Writing
A well thought out proposal can go along way. Your boss will see how much consideration you've given to this idea and your level of commitment to making it work. Be sure to cover the following areas in your proposal:

Employer benefits: Remember this is more for them than it is for you – so what will they gain? The more you can quantify and qualify the better.

About you: State how you are suited for this type of lifestyle. Your reliability, dependability and self-motivation are all key factors. Include information on the layout of your home and office space as well as the equipment you have to conduct your work activities.

Security: Do you work with confidential or other sensitive materials? If so, you'll need to address what steps you'll take to ensure your company's information is not compromised – from secure passwords to logon to your computer to firewalls.

Outside resources: Feel free to research articles and other statistical data that supports your request. Research the latest news on how companies benefit, how many people telework and look for other companies similar in nature to your with a telecommuting benefit.

If your boss seems skeptical, be prepared to suggest a trial run. Also plan to address one or more of the following comments:

  • It's not a good idea – everyone will want to do it, and they can't – it's just not fair.
  • I have to run this by the higher-ups.
  • How will we measure your success?
  • What if it doesn't work out?

How to Manage Teleworking Employees

credited to Sharon Abreu at cnn.com

Create a plan
A plan that envisions your team’s short- and long-term goals is important.  Teleworkers work, in large part, on their own and need the power to make certain decisions independently.  In order to do this effectively, they need to understand the company’s goals and objectives, and have a clear understanding of their role in achieving them. 

Written agreement
Even though research has shown that teleworkers typically work 10-40% more efficiently and longer hours, many employers remain skeptical.  To help alleviate concerns, employers should create a written agreement.

The written agreement should, include at minimum:

  • Company goals, priorities and objectives
  • Ownership of equipment and/or compensation for employee-owned equipment
  • Criteria for performance evaluations
  • Office attendance
  • Any legal considerations (security, licensing, etc.)
  • Grounds for termination

Control calls
Don’t allow employees to use their personal cell phone or home phone for business.  Tom Reynolds recommends that companies make provisions so employees aren't receiving calls directly on their home lines. He suggests that incoming calls should go to the central office and get re-routed from there.  This will ensure that if a telecommuter quits or gets fired, you can easily reroute calls to his or her replacement. 

Bulletin board
A bulletin board for teleworkers on the company intranet provides easy access to information that employees need to do their jobs. It also allows them to communicate efficiently with managers and coworkers.

Reliable high-speed connections
Make sure your teleworkers have reliable hardware and a fast, reliable ISP. Find out which high-speed connection works best in your area, Cable or DSL. Phone companies can offer that high-speed Internet access over regular phone lines, though you'll need a special high-speed modem. Enabling teleworkers to get their work done quickly and easily will make your job easier.

Continuity and structure
Have regularly scheduled short meetings to catch up on work progress and discuss any problem areas with your teleworkers. Regularly scheduled meetings help in setting short-term goals and brief meetings are usually more efficient than long ones.

The right people
Select teleworkers carefully. Ideally, teleworkers should be proven employees. Choose self-starters who work well independently and get work done on time.

Results-based management
Managers need to move from procedure-based to results-based management. Tom Reynolds concurs: "If you're not willing to let your employees telework, you haven't done your job as a manager because you can't adequately judge your employees' performance: you've lost the focus of the performance."

Training and consulting
Managers may need to learn how to manage virtually. "Not having each and every employee visible is a big adjustment for supervisors and managers," says Roseberry. "Many employers and managers aren't aware of the technological and organizational innovations that make teleworking possible and practical for their companies."

In sum, managing teleworkers is not unlike managing employees onsite. It requires management skills such as goal setting, assessing progress, giving regular feedback, and managing based on outcomes. Plan carefully, communicate often, pick the right people, give them the right tools, and get help if you need it, and you will succeed as a manager of teleworkers.