Our guest author, Lisa Hart, is a highly-trained double certified coach and member of the International Coach Federation who enjoyed a successful legal career on Wall Street as a litigator for 20+ years. Lisa excels at helping attorneys and other high performers find greater success and satisfaction, personally and professionally. She can be reached through her website for a complimentary sample session. While her views do not necessarily reflect those of the authors or Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Ms. Hart offers a thoughtful perspective worthy of careful consideration.
Yahoo!’s recent decision to ban its work-at-home program raised concern for some about the future of telecommuting. The good news is that most companies offer some sort of work-at-home arrangement because doing so is positively correlated with higher retention rates, lower absenteeism, and greater productivity and employee satisfaction. Still, working at home can be challenging for both employer and employee. The following guidelines will help both sides design telecommuting arrangements that are effective, productive and mutually satisfying.
1. Design a Workable Plan.
Employees: You need to meet professional responsibilities and goals. Consider what support elements you need in place in order to do that. What are your employer’s expectations and needs? Are there weekly meetings that you’ll need to attend in person? Don’t commit to an arrangement that you know you’ll have difficulty sustaining.
Employers: Depending on your company’s size, consider telecommuting guidelines and/or policies for the sake of ease, managing expectations and ensuring consistency in approach.
2. Schedule a meeting and make sure everyone’s on board.
Employees: Does your plan work for your employer/supervisor? Find out. What does s/he need from you? Meet in person and find out his/her preferred frequency and method of contact? How does s/he want to receive work product? If you have young children, this is a good time to make clear that you’ll have a sitter in place so that there are no concerns about your availability.
Employers: Be transparent. Let people know what you need, and when and how. Create and communicate the plan that will work for you, upfront.
3. Get Set Up.
Employees: To make a positive impression on your boss and/or clients, your participation from home must be seamless. Security and functionality are non-negotiable. Secure remote access to employer electronic files and the appropriate Internet security protections must be in place. Home equipment, e.g., computers, printers, scanners, phones, must be fully functional. Nothing is more frustrating than slow Internet access or poor cell/video reception.
Employers: Make available what’s need in terms of resources and timely tech support, who can be ready to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
4. Maintain A Professional Home Office Space.
Employees: A clean, quiet and organized space in which you can work uninterrupted is important, particularly if you participate in videoconferences. Background noises are a distraction and a messy office will undermine your credibility.
Employers: If you see something, say something. You want your employees to present themselves professionally. If you’re on a video call and don’t like what you see, speak up.
5. Keep to a Schedule.
Employees: Know ahead of time what hours you plan to work and communicate that to your colleagues. Sorting out childcare and other family related commitments ahead of time will make this easier.
Employers: If your employees’ schedules don’t work for you, let them know. Redesign what’s needed.
6. Stay Connected.
Employees: Visibility is key. You will not move ahead if you are forgotten. Clarify priorities and deadlines on a regular basis so that there’s no question about whether you’re in the loop. Provide updates on your progress as frequently as needed to demonstrate your productivity and full participation.
Employers: Meet your employees half way. Be available when you say you will, or create workable compromises.
7. Be Flexible.
Employees: Come in when working remotely doesn’t serve your employer, colleagues and clients.
Employers: Be willing to rearrange your schedule for meetings and consider video and telephone conferences where possible.
8. Deliver Measureable Results.
Employees and Employers: It’s not about hours. It’s about work product. Check in with each other and make sure you’re giving and getting what’s needed, on time.
9. Use Support Staff.
Employees: You are being paid to do a specific job. Whenever possible, delegate what you can and do what you were hired to do. Figure out ahead of time how to navigate priorities if you share an administrative assistant.
Employers: Make sure support staff members appreciate they’re accountable to telecommuting employees on days they are working from home.
10. Plan ahead.
Employees: Anticipate what’s needed so that your absence from the office doesn’t impact your team or deadlines. Certain activities may be more easily done remotely. Stay one step ahead of what is needed, being clear on priorities and deadlines.
Employers: Where possible, take into account telecommuting employee schedules before committing to deadlines, meetings or business travel.
Importantly, remember that responsibilities and reporting relationships will shift. Check in with each other. What isn’t being said? Does your arrangement still work? If not, how can you redesign it so that it’s mutually beneficial?
For employees, the goal is to stay connected and be perceived as a valuable. For employers, the goal is to retain and develop the best talent. Transparency and communication are keys to a workable solution to telecommuting.