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The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
In 2013, Yahoo made news for a new policy forbidding its employees from telecommuting – a move that seemed counter-productive in the growing trend towards flexible work options. While this will undoubtedly cost their employees thousands of dollars per year in transportation and childcare costs, it can also greatly limit the talent pool for a large corporation. That might not be a huge concern for Yahoo, but many smaller businesses – especially in high-demand fields like IT and healthcare – have embraced the benefits of remote employees. In this online age, you have access to talented individuals from all over the world whose skills and resources can help your company succeed. You just need to know how to reach out to them and keep them in the fold.
Make Remote Training Work
According to the BBC, 24 percent of Americans work at home at least part of the time, but only 2.5 percent consider it their primary work environment. It might be difficult to find employees who are actually used to working from home, but despite what some business owners say, experience in telecommuting doesn’t have to be a requirement. If you’re working with professionals with great online skills, they’ll be self-motivated whether they’re in the office or not, so the focus should be on training them about your company. That means providing them with the right tools. Access to your software, shared documents, and private networks gets them started, but you also need to educate them about use. Skype sessions and online presentations may work for you, but also consider making training DVDs that include all of the pertinent information about your business. That way employees can watch at their own pace, fast forward to pertinent sections, and refer to it whenever they need help.
When to Go Face-to-Face
Many companies choose to start their remote employees off with a visit to headquarters so they can meet their supervisors and relevant staff. But sometimes it’s not realistic, especially when you’re asking team members from across the globe to contribute. These days, it’s easier to communicate remotely than ever before, with live chats and video conferencing available for workers who need you to clarify issues or answer questions. The first step to managing remote employees is to make contact as available as possible, taking into account the many different time zones and schedules your workers might have. But if you can, meeting your team once or twice a year should be a priority. Flying in employees for yearly meetings and seminars will let them know they’re an important part of the team no matter how far away they are.
The Realities of Telecommuting
In some ways, you can see where Yahoo is coming from with forcing its employees to stick to the office. Remote workers lose the chance to collaborate in person with their colleagues, and you may have worries about their motivation. But remember, you’re hiring grown-ups, and their schedule is much less important than the results. If they work in the middle of the night, watch television, take long breaks, or juggle other projects, it shouldn’t make a difference to you as long as they can get the job done in a way that satisfies your needs as an employer. Seasoned business owners are often used to the office environment, where bosses are always looking over your shoulder. But as long as they have the right tools, employees can be successful anywhere. It all comes down to hiring the right people whom you can trust to work independently. When it comes down to it, there are pros and cons to working from home, and most business experts recommend as much of a combination as possible. But for certain types of companies, remote employees can be a practical and beneficial addition to your operations. Open the lines of communication and your job as a boss will extend far beyond the office walls.
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