Managing the Setup
As we mentioned in the previous parts of this series, management is a balancing act—one that requires you to manage people along with their output. But mobile workforce management turns the balancing act into a juggling act by throwing a third object into the mix: the setup itself.
A telecommuting setup offers a company a lot of potential perks, especially where human resources is concerned. It allows you to hire skilled workers from out of state without requiring them to switch zip codes. Research also shows that flexible work arrangements make for happier and more productive employees, lower attrition rates and significant savings on facilities costs.
That said, teleworking setups come with their fair share of risks. We touched on productivity and company culture issues in Parts One and Two. Holes in security are another risk, but that is more an IT issue than a managerial one. For managers and their teams, the primary concerns unique to a work-from-home setup include:
- Solitude more or less comes with the telecommuter’s territory. For some people, this is a good thing—it’s easier to focus on tasks without the distraction of water-cooler chats. But for workers whose jobs call for lots of collaboration and brainstorming, this can be a real disadvantage.
Management Tip: Arrange a partial teleworking setup if possible. A happy medium would be having the employee work in the office for a few days each week and the rest from home.
- Career path disadvantages. Some employees feel that telecommuting robs them of chances for career advancement, especially if they wish to continue with the setup long-term. This is partially true, as career paths that require strictly office-based work are shut off to teleworkers.
Management Tip: Make it clear to your team that promotions are ultimately merit-based and that advancement opportunities will be open to deserving employees whether they work in the office or from home.
- Work-family balance. Telecommuting gives employees more time to spend with their families, but this creates new problems in the process. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, teleworking reduces work-to-family conflict but increases the risk of family-to-work conflict.
Management Tip: To minimize family-to-work conflict, instill a sense of accountability in each member of your remote team. Once tasks have been delegated, each employee must be able to manage his or her own responsibilities. Nobody gets the short end of the stick.
Telecommuting offers businesses so many advantages, but its inherent limitations indicate that it is by no means the perfect alternative to a traditional office setup. Its suitability will depend on factors like your company’s existing facilities, the nature of your department’s work and individual workers’ idiosyncrasies.
Ultimately, it can be a great supplement to your personnel strategy provided you create a solid but dynamic framework for it and master the principles of mobile workforce management.