Monday, April 12, 2010

4 Tips for Tackling Telecommuting Skeptics

Stella is an unbridled telecommuting enthusiast. I think that telecommuters are more efficient, more available, and more productive than other knowledge workers, in large part because we get to structure our days in the ways that work best for our habits and proclivities.

And we get to wear slippers. Or flip flops in the summer.

But how do you address hardcore telecommuting skeptics in the workplace? There are (I know, perish the thought, but it's true) people who truly believe that telecommuters are less available and less useful than people who are sitting in the office. I work with some of these people now, and I'm really trying to think strategically about what I can do to make them feel more comfortable with working with me. I've got a few ideas about what I'm going to try:

1. Relentless responsiveness. No matter when these key opinion leaders (and telecommuting skeptics) call or email, I want to get back to them immediately. I tend to anyway, but particular aggression in problem areas is key.

2. Technology streamlining. I want to be easy to be in touch with, so reducing the complexity of working with the tools that let you get to me is key. This may mean using the cellphone instead of the Skype, just because cellphones dropping calls is "normal", and Skype doing something weird is "on the computer and therefore something weird I have to do to be in touch with this one difficult person." It means taking time at the start of every web session to go over how to use the online meeting tools and make sure everyone can see and hear okay.

3. Clear availability. I make a point of telling everyone, "Oh, don't you worry about what time it is where I am. I always work east coast hours, so if you guys are in the office, I'm in my office, too, and available for a quick conversation anytime. Just stop by!" I am also going to work on getting the casual contact tools we use (Skype for the most part) on more desks because it helps people to see that I'm online, available, and pop-in-upon-able.

4. Aggressively communicated results. If you got a problem, yo, I'll solve it. Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it. I am the guy who gets things done, and I need to not only do that, but communicate that one of the reasons that I'm able to kick out productive work so fast (and often in an urgent situation) is that I can work from wherever I am. Telecommuting means that I'm never not in the office because wherever I am is where the office is. At. I just need to make sure that the skeptics know that things are getting done because I'm not there, not in spite of the fact I'm not there.

Four simple steps. I'm doing all of this, plus going on site a lot more. What the heck, I like to fly, and Rochester is a beautiful city. We'll see how it works.


Shawn said...

Agree with you on the "relentless responsiveness" point. While this may actually be conterproductive in that it breaks concentration (I find that working from home uninterrupted drastically improves productivity in being able to remain focused on an activity), it does reinforce the fact that you are, in fact, working, and not watching TV with your laptop upstairs in the office. Until managers become more comfortable telecommuting, this is a difficult reality.

As for numbers two and three, using a software like the one mentioned in this blog post about telecommuting -- -- allows you to tie all your methods of contact together, so that people internall and externally can reach you no matter what end device you're using (including Skype and mobile phones).

And as for "Aggressively communicated results," this is a good idea no matter where you work from, but especially when not in the office. Reporting, both of a real time and historical variety, helps with this, as well.

Tony Gialluca III said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Vanilla Ice quote.
But seriously, good points all around. I've been running a home based design business for years with my team working from their homes as well. I'd really like to get your thoughts on an app I developed to sway the non-conforming bosses who still insist on people being cubicle-slaves just so it can be "seen" that they are working. This app solves that problem.
Please let me know what you think. And keep Stellacommute going - your casual/honest writing style rocks.