As a small startup company, it makes the most business sense to have employees telecommute. Without the overhead costs of an office, you can focus on the business without adding another burden of renting office space. While telecommuting is beneficial for both the business and employee, it’s important that you have all the necessary tools in place to manage them correctly.
“As virtual teams become more and more a reality for growing numbers of people, leading them effectively is critical for companies wishing to exploit the opportunities for achieving high-priority business goals.” – CIO.com
Maintain Close and Frequent Communication
When you can’t give your employee a pat on the back as you walk to the kitchen, it’s important that you are interacting through every other mode of communication. Not only does this keep you on the same page, but allows you to pick up on otherwise unnoticeable cues.
The human resources experts at HRCommunication.com suggest, “… Pay attention to signs of stress or other problems that may affect their ability to achieve results.” Utilize a variety of methods to be in touch.
- Email schedule: Create a schedule for how often your employee(s) should be checking emails. This ensures everyone is getting the necessary information and not missing an important memo.
- Phone calls: Set up weekly phone calls and always be available. Without an office to step into, your employees need the next best thing. Utilize VOIP phone services for a cheap and flexible way to stay in touch.
- Virtual meetings: Try to encourage in person meetings. This gives you a chance to read body cues and connect on a one to one level.
Clarify Goals and Expectations
As in any office environment, setting goals and expectations are beneficial in keeping your employees on track with an ending in mind. This helps them stay productive while working toward a final outcome. Still, after setting up goals, you’ll need to monitor that the work is progressing.
- Benchmarking: This will be one of your only ways to assess their work level. Seeing when they started a project and how they progress over the week will give you an idea of their work abilities and time spent on the job.
- See completed goals – Utilizing Google Docs, for example will allow you to review the employee’s work in real time. As a shared document it can be viewed and edited at the same time as any other member of the document.
Encourage Group Mentality
In the modern office, the social aspect has become as important as the work put in from 9-5. This creates a sense of unity, equality and fun, giving employees a reason to work hard. According to Marie Puybaraud, in an interview with GreenBiz.com, “For them [Gen Y] the workplace is a social construction and work is social. They want emotional engagement and the sense of community.” While it’s likely your telecommuters are of the Y generation, it’s important that you work this into your management strategy.
- Private group page: Facebook or LinkedIn offer private group pages. This is a chance for your employees to chat, joke, and talk about work or whatever they prefer. This gives them the opportunity to socialize, mimicking that office environment.
- Group emails: Maintaining a group email system allows your employees to collaborate in the same way they would in an open office environment. This stimulates productivity and creativity.
Learn To Review Performance from a Distance
One of the most important characteristics of a good manager is giving frequent and effective performance reviews. It gives you a chance to reiterate goals, expectations and job descriptions. In the case of a telecommuting employee, however, you have to reconsider how you handle performance reviews and rewards.
- Acknowledge the difference: Since you can’t necessarily assess based on time put on the clock you have to assess based on goals, time-management, and project completions.
- Reward hitting goals: Make it a point to reward your telecommuters for a completed job or project. When you can’t high five them at the end of a hard day, you have to resort to other methods.
Telecommuting employees are a great way to save a buck as your small business gets off the ground. However, it’s important to remember that you may need to tweak your typical management skills in order to cater to an out of house employee.