Saturday, July 7, 2007

Telecommuting Success Factors

What leads to any particular employee's success as a telecommuter? Well, in my year of experience I've discovered a lot of things can help.

There is having a sturdy set of remote technologies in place so that remote workers can access every system, network, and tool they may need in the course of their work. This access should go across the board, even to systems the person may not need currently, but may in the future. If expanding your work requires extensive on-site set up to hook you into another system, you're not going to be very popular with your friends in IT. Suddenly it becomes easier to have a Real Office worker take on that duty instead of the slipper-wearer, and you're on your way to marginalization.

Stella Says: Make remote access part of the default set up for all newly acquired systems. Every employee's PC should have secure remote access enabled; every server should be configured for secure remote maintenance.

Another problem I've faced is being the only telecommuter in my office, and one of only three in my 400-person division. This has lead to a perception that telecommuting is for the elite few, and this can tend to breed resentment and grumbling amongst my Real Office colleagues. So by all means, start your telecommuting and remote work program with a controlled pilot group of your best and brightest (or at least your most But for heaven's sake don't stop there -- roll it out to everyone sooner rather than later to reduce resentment and make everyone feel the loving care of flexible work arrangements.

Stella Says: Develop strong policies that support responsible full-time remote work and/or telecommuting days, that give managers tools to monitor telecommuters, and that allow managers an out when faced with abuse of the policy. Then ROLL IT OUT TO EVERYONE.

I've been worried since the start that I would never be promoted again, and I think this should be a concern for all remote workers. Depending on how management perceives the importance of your work, and how easily they can detect your accomplishments, you may face significant limitations on your advancement. For me, it's a particular problem because I work in a small technical island in a sea of people who think that it's very strange to enjoy spending eight hours a day puzzling over computer stuff. To put it simply, they think we're nuts. I think that telecommuters who work in technology companies may have a very different experience than I have had, but in any circumstance, making sure that not only your immediate manager, but his or her bosses know what and how much you're able to accomplish in your slippers. Likewise, staying in touch with the other shut-ins who may work there, and making sure that everyone is communicating well about the success of their efforts would really help.

Stella Says: Communication is key, and every part of the telecommuting food chain must think consciously about how to quantify and express how it's working.

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