Five ways to get remote working wrong

Oct 01 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

There are five common, and easily avoided, mistakes that companies tend to make when setting up teleworking or remote working programmes.

According to U.S employers' association Capital Associated Industries, remote working needs to be about much more than simply waving your workers off at the door.

In fact if you are serious about making a success of remote working, it requires careful planning and training of workers and managers alike.

The first pitfall is that organisations rush into it without any concrete policies and procedures in place, warned Brandon Dempsey, vice-president of telecommuting specialist Suite Commute, as part of the research.

Companies, he argued, too often failed to take the time to set out what processes they were going to use or even to draw up a policy.

Examples of this sort of corner-cutting included going to Google and simply downloading off-the-shelf policies, he argued.

But these might not cover all the legal bases that needed to be covered for that particular organisation and therefore result in a costly court case further down the line, warned Dempsey.

The second common pitfall was to over-invest in technology, with companies rushing out to buy the latest technology and gizmos when often they did not need to.

Businesses instead needed to look carefully at the jobs each employee would be performing and simply buy the technology that made sense for those jobs.

"Companies can often use their existing IT infrastructure without buying any new software or hardware," Dempsey pointed out.

The third failing was the failure to train managers. It is now well recognised that managing someone from afar requires a different set of management skills, especially how you communicate and stay in touch with your remote team.

Yet too often day-to-day pressures or budgetary constraints meant training around this new form of management simply failed to happen.

Fourthly, firms often failed to explore whether this type of initiative even fitted within their business model.

"Companies should map out their business drivers and define the goals they want to achieve by implementing a virtual work option before implementing a telecommuting program," argued Dempsey.

Finally, organisations too often failed to pilot their programme before "going live".

So, instead of, say, allowing 100 staff to telecommute straight off, it made more sense to try a pilot programme first and just deploy ten or 15 employees, recommended Dempsey.

Only once all these policies and procedures were in place should the initiative be extended far and wide, he added.

How to manage remote teams is becoming an ever more pressing management issue, latest research has argued.

UK research last month [September] suggested that the number of people teleworking from home had risen dramatically over the past few years.

The survey by the Confederation of British Industry and recruiter Pertemps found almost half of the more than 500 employers polled said they now offered teleworking to staff, a dramatic increase from the 14 per cent reported two years ago and 11 per cent in 2004.

Employers in both the U.S and Canada have also reported requests to telework increasing rapidly, as well as more people actually taking the plunge and giving it a go.

A World at Work poll of 2,700 workers in September found teleworking had soared in popularity over the past 12 months.

More than four out of 10 U.S firms and a similar percentage in Canada now offered it, it added.


Older Comments

This article makes some very good points. You can't simply give employees a laptop and a VPN and call it a telecommuting program.

Telecommuters, just like traditional workers, have requirements that go beyond a computer.

One option that employers should consider is the use of Remote Office Centers to support telecommuters. Remote Office Centers lease individual offices, internet and phone systems to workers from different companies in shared centers located around the city and suburbs.

Many workers do not have adequate facilities, or a private work area in the home. Others find that they miss the social contact when they work alone at home every day.

Remote Office Centers are fairly new, but can be found in many cities by searching the internet for 'Remote Office Centers' in quotes.

Employers are going to have make sure they have a fully formulated telecommuting plan if they want to be successful.