Can you make teleworking work for you?
Here's a scenario that every small business owner fears: A key employee resigns because he or she cannot continue to come to your place of business to work for reasons out of their control, such as an illness or a family issue. Is there another answer besides accepting the resignation?
With the exciting recruiting resources available today, you might discover that the best prospect for a job opening you have lives in another state, or even another country. What if they don't want to move? What's your next move?
One word answers both questions: Teleworking.
New technology and evolving management paradigms make stories like these have happy and productive endings through teleworking.
A marker of the 21st century workplace, teleworking is where an employee works off-site full or part-time (aka tele-commuting), most often from home. But in order for such an arrangement to be successful, two things must happen:
First the easy part: You must have the necessary technology and tools, which you will have to provide your teleworker.
- Computer capability and Internet connection are the minimum.
- Your teleworker will need the right set up, like office furniture, etc., to make their off-site working environment as productive as possible. And it's not unreasonable to ask to see how the space is organized.
Now the hard part: Can you handle such a management relationship? Consider these four ground rules to execute a teleworking relationship.
- Find out if, and what work can realistically be done off-site.
- Determine how to coordinate all work, off or on-site.
- Establish expectations for scheduled communication, plus production, execution and delivery of work.
- Talk with other employees about why this employee is being allowed to work remotely, so they can support the new plan. If handled properly, you'll get major points for being such a cool, 21st century manager.
Execute your teleworking plan with the expectation that adjustments will almost certainly have to be made. So schedule periodic reviews with your teleworker to discuss how things are going.
By the way, if you're still having trouble imagining having an employee who's not sitting under your roof, add up how many hours in-house employees work and communicate without actually seeing each other. I'll bet that number will surprise you.
It might make you feel better knowing that the teleworking model is now being implemented by thousands of small businesses like yours every day.
Write this on a rock ... Teleworking can work. Can you make it work for you?
Jim Blasingame is host of the nationally syndicate radio show The Small Business Advocate and author of the multi-award-winning book The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.