Many companies are already adopting telecommuting, teleworking, remote work, or a work-from-home setup. From 2015 to 2016, the telecommuting population growth was recorded at 11.7% in the United States, a record high since this kind of work setup saw a notable rise in 2008. However, in 2017 many large companies have decided to reduce or get rid of their telecommuting programs.
There are many benefits to telecommuting, but there are also drawbacks. With mismanagement, these drawbacks are amplified and can defeat the advantages. That’s why there’s a need to make sure that home-based workers are adequately managed. Establishing an efficient system is vital.
To make telecommuting work, it would help doing the following:
Make telecommuting an option
Always make telecommuting an alternative instead of being the default setup. You can’t just turn a certain number of your employees into telecommuters without giving them a choice, let alone switch your entire operations into a remote work arrangement. Likewise, it is inadvisable to automatically make new applicants telecommuters unless they have been made aware of the setup and you have ascertained their suitability for such.
There’s a long list of jobs that employers can relegate to home-based workers. These include auditing, financial analysis, computer programming, software development, data entry, database administration, graphic design, illustration, desktop publishing, research, market research analysis, online marketing, stock brokerage, telemarketing, phone and online customer service, webmastering, website design, content development, editing, and translation. However, you need to be mindful of the list of jobs that you should and should not assign to a teleworker.
You cannot let a telecommuter work on something that involves the use of on-site machinery or the handling of materials, substances, or physical products. Likewise, it does not make sense letting a remote worker handle the security of a building or store. Some jobs may appear compatible with a work-from-home setup but tend to be better handled by an employee who is physically working on-site or in the office. These jobs are usually time-sensitive and confidential ones. Product designing, especially for a famous brand, for example, is preferably done in the company premises to avoid leakages or possible intellectual property theft.
Hire the right home-based workers
A home-based work setup merely is not for everyone. It can make some employees productive, but it can also lead to counter-productiveness for others. Some even say that telecommuting makes them miserable as it inherently means isolation to a certain extent.
Hiring the right telecommuters entails an evaluation of their preferences, work-related skills, and track record in a work-from-home setup or something similar. Consider the following:
- Telecommuters are expected to not easily fall for external distractions such as ambient noises, sounds from neighbors, boisterous kids, or attention-seeking pets.
- They should have minimal to no internal distractions. These internal distractions include the habit of raiding the fridge, the urge to do home chores, or the impulse to check something out on TV, favorite websites, or social media.
- Good telecommuters have excellent time management skills.
- The equipment used for work matters significantly. You can’t hire someone whose computer breaks down every so often. Likewise, you should avoid hiring someone with an unreliable internet connection. Although hardware and internet connection glitches sound like acceptable excuses, they can adversely affect work performance. It’s better to avoid these problems by choosing someone who has decent computer specs and internet access.
- Telecommuting does not mean complete disconnection from the office. Remote workers should still be able to maintain proactive contact with their office, bosses, or colleagues. Quirky workers who refuse to get in touch regularly are a no-no.
- Some employees fail to perform their duties well in the absence of a structure or routine prescribed by bosses or managers. These employees are very unlikely to succeed as remote workers. It’s important to clarify this with a job applicant who claims to be suitable for remote work.
- Effective remote workers are self-motivated. They should no longer require external reminders or prompting to do what is expected of them. Self-motivation usually manifests in an employee’s track record in meeting deadlines, completing tasks without supervision, and finding ways to finish projects with minimal reliance on supervisors or managers for guidance, answers to questions, and the seeking of effective methods in completing tasks.
As much as possible, test employees for teleworking suitability first unless they already have convincing previous experience as a home-based worker. Implementing a probationary period makes sense. Being an effective remote worker is best assessed through actual performance.
Provide proper orientation and training
Once you hire a suitable teleworker, it’s vital to conduct adequate orientation and to provide the necessary training. Don’t expect the new employee to already everything. Don’t just send a manual or booklet of rules and procedures and expect the employee to follow everything written on it faithfully.
It may facilitate greater efficiency if you “spoon-feed” everything the telecommuting employee needs to know. Work is not a school setting. While it is good to encourage employees to continue learning or to challenge them to grow professionally, becoming efficient entails clarity in roles and expectations. It’s better to share with them the best practices, methods, or techniques in doing things than to let them develop their working methods. It’s better to lay down everything for the employees than to wait for them to “discover” and “appreciate their role and significance in the company on their own.
On the other hand, even though remote work means having no personal contact with managers and colleagues for the most part, it is still advisable to maintain a certain level of personal interaction. The employee orientation, preferably, should be done in person. The same goes for the training.
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Instill discipline and provide firm guidance
In connection with proper orientation and training, it is also essential to establish discipline and to give direction to how to do things. The following tips should be helpful for home-based workers:
- Set strict schedules and deadlines. Telecommuters should be made to adopt the habit of submitting all their deliverables within schedule, or earlier. As much as possible, a comprehensive program of everything that needs to be done for a week, month or a short-term period should be presented to telecommuters to help them manage their time better.
- Send reminders. This does not necessarily contradict the self-motivated character of a good telecommuter. Reminders don’t mean that you don’t trust telecommuters to be self-motivated and disciplined enough. Instead, these help them stay in track as there could be instances when they forget their schedules or confuse the list of things they need to do. Reminders can be automated. It can be helpful to email work details as part of the reminder as it can also facilitate the tracking of tasks, especially when there are many to monitor.
- There’s more benefit than harm in “overcommunicating” when it comes to a remote work setup. Additionally, don’t limit communication to just one or two methods. Employ as many modes of communication as possible, including telephone, SMS, Skype, mobile messaging apps, social media, email, forum, and even a support ticket system. There should be several other ways to contact a telecommuter in case there are no responses to the emails sent or when the phone is out of reach.
- Consider using software to facilitate telecommuting or recommending certain software or apps that can be useful to telecommuting employees. There are many to choose from. You don’t necessarily have to get a software tool that labeled specifically as a “telecommuting software” or platform. Time management, scheduling, and agile project management software can serve as excellent telecommuting tools.
- It greatly helps in setting up a digital space for telecommuters and their colleagues (other telecommuters and office-based employees) to converge. It can be a simple forum or a full-blown digital workplace platform.
- Ensure accountability. The failure to deliver the work expected should come with consequences. Conversely, reward good performance. It may help motivate employees if their performance or output is publicly acknowledged periodically.
Focus on efficiency and results
As much as possible, resorting to remote work should only be done to boost productivity, not for the sake of cost-cutting. Many employees perform better when given a flexible work arrangement or the option to do their job at home. However, most employees tend to become less productive when they are forced to adopt a home-based work system for the sake of minimizing company costs.
There are instances, however, when a telecommuting setup does not only make things efficient but also helps in reducing costs. An excellent example of this is the case of doing translation projects. Generally, it’s better to hire native language speakers to achieve more precise and contextually appropriate translations. Hiring native language speakers can be costly especially if you have to relocate them to work at your office. A remote work setup provides an excellent compromise as it enables access to highly proficient translators with reduced costs by doing everything online.
Review and tweak
Lastly, it’s essential to have a periodic review of the work-from-home system employed. Determine if it’s working as desired or if it delivers the advantages it supposedly provides. Examine your output figures and the productivity of your telecommuters. Compare them with industry standards or even with the output of your office-based employees.
If you find things that could use improvements, proceed to implement tweaks or adjustments. If you discover that your telecommuting team is performing way worse than the office-based employees, don’t immediately continue to scrap the telework setup yet. Study options for improvements and apply them to see if the results can get better. After all, the decision to allow employees to telecommute comes with indubitable cost advantages so don’t immediately conclude that it’s not working. It could only be needing some adjustments.
The management of home-based workers is not as easy as it may appear. Making it efficient also posts a challenge. You need to take into account several factors. Consider the inputs above as you strive for a better remote work setup.
Home-based workers for LSPs
Hiring home-based workers has many challenges and benefits. But it is very suitable for companies that serve clients around the world, such as language services providers. Day Translations, Inc. has hundreds of freelance linguists located in major parts of the globe and other is remotely-located staff while ensuring that each one suitable for the job. Day Translations rely on these home-based workers to professionally and accurately provide high-quality translation and perform our functions to ensure that the company’s day-to-day operations go smoothly. For your translations as well as interpreting needs, give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us. Day Translations is open 24/7, every day of the year to provide you with language services at the time you need them.
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