The New York Times cited an American Community Survey in March 2014 that reported telecommuting had increased 79% between 2005 and 2012, and that it now makes up 2.6% of the American workforce, or 3.2 million workers who work either full or part time. The average telecommuter is 49 years old, and the sweet spot for most who work from home is some combination of home and office work. General fears in home workers are that they are passed over for promotions. Half of the employees who worked from home also said they were lonely and asked to come back to the office.
Managing home workers and those who periodically work away from the office is a unique challenge for C-level executives. On one hand, CEOs are being pushed to open up more telecommuting opportunities because it makes their companies appear as progressive and competitive as other organizations to employees and job candidates — putting more workers into home working environments also saves on fixed corporate expenses such as facility leases and operations. On the other hand, managing home workers requires ensuring that the company is receiving the same value from those working remotely as it is from those who report to the office.
Here are IT leadership tips on managing home office workers so all parties involved get the maximum benefits from the arrangement.
Remote workers frequently set their own hours, and adopt different work habits than their more time-structured office colleagues. No one is at the worker's home to see when work is getting done, or even how much time is spent on work. Because of this, the only way to gauge productive output is to set metrics and to measure the results of these home workers against the work output standards at the office (e.g., the number of invoices to process in one day), and to assess work for quality.
Companies need to know that there is backup in situations of disaster recovery (DR) and business continuation. Because of the technology capability that mobile communications now brings to home and field offices, these home worker "outposts" can be well suited to DR and business continuation cutover when office resources become unavailable or go offline. In fact, at the top of your to-do list should be to leverage remote workers for DR and business continuation.
Home workers often report they feel disconnected to the office, and these "disconnects" can adversely impact quantity and quality of work over time. Feeling disconnected can also cause drift of home workers away from the central strategies and goals that the business needs to accomplish. You can combat this telecommuting side effect by having home workers participate in office-based departmental meetings on a monthly and preferably a weekly basis (at a minimum).
You must strike the right balance between work accountability and the normal privacy rights that all employees expect. For instance, it isn't necessary to know the location of a remote worker's favorite lunch spot for her legally allowed break.
- 10 questions to determine whether an employee can work from home
- Telecommuting Policy (Tech Pro Research, a sister site of TechRepublic)
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.