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Managers: Are you preventing progress for your employees?

We’ve been watching a steady growth of telecommuting around the world.

Recent data suggests the trend is not going away. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management predicts the practice of working from home will increase significantly through 2020.

The SHRM survey asked human-resource professionals about their experiences with and thoughts on flexible working programs.

The majority of respondents — 83 per cent — expect telecommuting will become more prevalent in the next five years; 89 per cent said other flexibile work arrangements will become more prevalent in the next five years.

telecommuting success

The survey also revealed flexible work arrangements are an important part of an effective workplace, contributing to employee job satisfaction, retention and health.

A big barrier to telecommuting, however, is workplace culture, says Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs.

“The role of managers is central to the success of flexible work arrangements,” Esen said. “Managers need to work with HR to communicate to employees what options are available and how they benefit the goals of both employees and the organization.”

Don’t be an obstacle

A team’s manager should be an individual employees rely on to overcome obstacles they encounter in their day-to-day work tasks.

When research continually shows productivity and employee satisfaction are top benefits of telecommuting, should a manager stand in the way of offering flexible work arrangements?

Trouble is, many managers are unsure how supervise off-site team members. How do you monitor their work quality and quantity? How do you communicate with them?

We’ve dwelled on these questions many times on The Monday Morning Conference Call. Yet the reservations remain.

Ace management consultant David C. Baker says managers must improve their interpersonal skills to make a telecommuting program a success.

He told Management Today recently that managing remote employees can complicate communications.

“When you are managing someone at a distance, you can’t as easily pick up the personal cues about what might be happening in someone’s work life,” Baker said. “You also miss the visual part of communication and the casual verbal exchanges as you pass each other in the hallway or in the lunch room.”

He suggests managers go out of their way to stay connected and show telecommuters they are appreciated. He advocates regular conference calls to ensure everyone understands their work objectives, along with regular reports from each member of the remote team.

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, says

companies — and managers — need to get over these reservations about telework if they want to be a part of the global business landscape.

“If you’re a company that wants to be competitive in a globalized, constantly connected world and you decide to not acknowledge these facts, you will be caught with your pants down sooner rather than later,” she writes. “When it comes down to it, that way of working is more in tune with the 20th century workplace than the 21st century one.”

Truth be told, many employees already work “remote” at times. After all, you’ve given them smartphones or tablets so they can be reachable via email, text or phone, right?

Technology has allowed us to be mobile and to work in locations other than the company-assigned cubicles.

Is it time to move your company forward?

“If companies always held back from changing the way they do business, we’d still be using typewriters, secretarial pools, and rolodexes in the office,” says Sutton Fell. “Remote working is only unmanageable if companies choose not to proactively manage it.

“If a formalized program is put into place, it doesn’t take any more effort to manage remote workers than it does to manage traditional workers; all it takes is a shift in how you manage them.”

Can you make that shift?

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