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Mythbusting: I don’t have time to do that either

Yep, my laundry piles up.

The bed goes unmade.

I don’t always cook dinner … my freezer is well stocked with frozen pizza.

And the dust balls collect in the corners of my living room.

telecommuting messy house

Not really my house

Some people believe telecommuters have the time of day to tackle all the household tasks everyone else have to cram into the evenings and weekends.

OK, sure … it’s a little easier for us to take a two-minute break and throw a load of clothes in the wash. After all, the laundry room is right there.

That doesn’t mean, however, we can pull ourselves away from our daily tasks to put the clothes in the dryer, fold them and put them away.

Why not?

Because we’re working.

Remote workaholics

We do have a little more freedom than our in-office teammates.

We can enjoy an extra cup of homemade coffee, instead of driving an agonizing commute to HQ.

It’s easy to take the dog for a walk on our lunch break.

If it’s a nice day, we can take our laptops outside and enjoy some fresh air while we work.

All the comforts of home are within grasp (and no one to steal our lunch!).

But when the clock strikes 5 p.m., our in-office peers are out the door and heading for home.

Many of us forget to log out.

We’re caught up in our tasks and think if we get that one more task of our to-do list, tomorrow will be easier.

One task turns into two which turns into three and five and the next thing we know, it’s 8 o’clock!

And there will always be a fresh set of tasks to fill up tomorrow’s to-do list, leaving little room to vacuum and dust.

We still get more done

Whether it’s a different, less intrusive set of distractions, an ability to cut the workday off or an uncanny ability to focus, research shows a remote work force is more productive.

Ctrip, a Chinese travel agency with 16,000 employees, randomly assigned call centre employees to work from home or in the office for nine months. The study — titled Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment revealed a 13 per cent performance increase by the home workers. Nine per cent of the increase was attributed to working more minutes per shift, thanks to fewer breaks and sick days, and four per cent to more calls per minute, thanks to a quieter work environment.

Due to the experiment’s success, Ctrip started a telecommuting program for the entire company and allowed the experimental employees to choose between remote and in-office work. More than half of them elected to work from home, leading to productivity gains doubling to 22 per cent.

Now if only we could figure out how to translate that productivity into getting the laundry done!

If only it was as enjoyable as work.

Observations & Answers By amacisaac on Comments

Management: Practise team-building for remote workers

The “team” philosophy is a vital part of the office environment.

An office team that works together well — with trust, complementary skills and behaviours, and a sense of community — is more productive and more engaged.

telecommuting team building

Edmond Lau, a Quora engineer, writes in Forbes that teamwork is “incredibly important for output quality, morale, and retention”.

Employees who feel like they’re on their own, he says, are less likely to learn, less likely to receive feedback on their projects and more likely to feel demoralized.

When they feel like they’re part of a team, however, they feel supported, motivated and more accountable.

Team-building and telecommuting

The No. 1 trait of a good team is a good leader. That’s you.

And one of your traits as a good leader is knowing how to implement activities that bring your team together as a well-oiled machine.

Team-building can help your workers better understand one another (and you) and learn how to be more effective at working together.

Trouble is, your workers are scattered around the country, continent or globe.

Your team is already productive and engaged, based on statistics that show telecommuters are head and shoulders above their in-office teammates.

But if you promote team-building, you might be able to take those benefits one step further.

What can you do as the manager of a virtual team?

Weekly conference calls

Once a week, schedule a team update meeting. Talk about ideas, changes, obstacles and plans. Go around the “room” and let each of your employees discuss their projects and allow input from their teammates.

Collaboration will take your team further than solo efforts.


When you hire someone new, set up a call with her to welcome her to the team. Set your expectations for milestones and communications.

Make sure she is given a special introduction at your next weekly conference call with the team.

Individual checkins

You could fire off a template to each telecommuter and have her fill in a weekly report.

Or, you schedule a once-a-week or biweekly call with each person on your team and make that human touch. Talk about their goals and career plans and how you can make those happen.

Encourage discussion

You and your remote team have the technology to keep the lines of communication wide open. Your team can instant message, email or Skype.

They don’t need to wait for the weekly conference call to bounce ideas off each other or help each other solve the little problems where you aren’t needed.

Invest in an intranet

An intranet gives your team an internal forum for discussion and idea exchange.

It provides a platform for:

✓ Day-to-day collaboration
✓ Housing important files, forms, company guides and policies
✓ Sharing information on the company, projects and your industry
✓ Building individual profiles where your remote workers can get to know each other personally, not just professionally

Bring everyone together

This can be a tough one if you’re managing a global or countrywide operation.

If you have a more localized team and it’s cost-effective, invite your team to company outings or other get-togethers. Schedule your team for a dinner out and let them chat — shop talk or not — face to face.

Your turn

Managers, do you have any special methods for encouraging your remote team to communicate?

Tips & Resources Tagged , , |By amacisaac on Comments
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