Five ways to get remote working wrong

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

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 organizations rush into remote working 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 organization 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 recognized that managing someone from afar requires a different set of management skills, especially regarding 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.

Fourth, firms often failed to explore whether this type of initiative even fit 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, organizations too often failed to pilot their program before "going live." So, instead of, say, allowing 100 staff to telecommute straight off, it made more sense to try a pilot program first and just deploy ten or 15 employees, recommended Dempsey.

Only once all these policies and procedures are 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.

Research done in the UK last fall 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.

Reprinted with permission from Management-Issues Ltd.

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