Distributed workforce – A work from home program

Updated: Nov 6


Working from home is an art that needs to be developed over time, and it should be continuously revised and re-evaluated. Expectations need to be updated on an ongoing basis to ensure business objectives are being met.  


 Nowadays, some of the most common business tools needed to perform our jobs include; a computer (desktop or laptop), access to files on a network, a mobile device, an email account, and user credentials. What is interesting is that all of these tools can be used whether you are sitting 10 feet away from your supervisor’s office or 10,000 miles away from your headquarters. 


If your organization is not already using a work from home program, deciding to have a distributed workforce should not be based on physical location but rather on having the right team to achieve business goals, efficiently, successfully, and as expected. 


Let’s review the advantages, disadvantages, and some recommendations to consider when deciding to implement a work from home program.

 

Advantages of Telecommuting. –


Corporate Savings. – The employee typically carries the burden on electricity, heating, cooling, and maybe even the internet bills when working from home. Companies can re-negotiate permanent real state rental spaces since part of the workforce might not need a physical office on a regular basis.


Business Continuity Preparation. – While Companies should always be prepared for the unexpected, most organizations do not test their business continuity plans. Having employees work from home can give organizations the ability to operate even during business disruption situations like natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc. 


Productivity. – Once the employees have proven they can be trusted with working from home, a proper home-office environment can allow for staff to focus on the responsibilities and not be distracted by office distractions like; gossip, office politics, friction among employees, etc. 


Maximize Global Talents. – There is not a business rule to indicate that the best resources live within a 50 miles radius of your office. In fact, some of the best resources might live across the state, on the other side of the country, or across the world. 


Work-Life Balance. – If followed appropriately, the remote employees can get back 1 to 3 hours a day from their otherwise daily commute. This time saved could be invested in other personal activities and allow the employee to have a more productive workday. 


Disadvantages of Telecommuting. –


Limited Supervision. –  Employees without self-discipline can abuse the ability to work away from their supervisor’s visual radar. These kinds of employees can disguise their work-schedule with fake calendar meetings while running household errands in the middle of their workday.


Work Isolation. – Remote staff management requires managers with the willingness to go the extra mile to ensure any decisions made at the office impacting the team, is communicated with all remote employees. Often, those not present at in-person conversations, meetings, or social gatherings, tend to be left-out and eventually being isolated from their workplace. 


Logistic Management Challenges. – Setting up a group meeting can become a monumental task. In addition to finding availability for different levels of management in attendance, managing multiple time zones can impact having the right resources join you at the next group meeting. Do not assume or let others assume the meeting time. Be specific and indicate which time zone should be followed. 


Recommendations for Telecommuting


1) Get training on building virtual teams

2) Establish a work from home policy

3) Test employee’s ability to follow the policy

4) Identify self-motivated resources

5) Maintain ongoing effective  communication

6) Measure productivity and efficiency in-and-out of the office

7) Ensure in-person meetings are productive

8) Setup clear/define deadlines and deliverables

9) Assess the cost savings associated with remote employees, e.g., office space, utility expenses, etc. 

10) Designate mission-critical functions that must operate from the office. 


Please note, an employee not worthy of your trust and not accountable for his/her actions is going to under-perform regardless of where they work, in a traditional office environment, or working from home. Don’t let geographical distances prevent you from building and maintaining a successful and strategically located team.  


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