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It can be a challenge knowing how to manage employees who work from home. Remote workers generally have a different way of accomplishing work and may have a stronger sense of independence than traditional 9-to-5 employees. With some 2.8 million telecommuters in the United States alone, according to 2008 statistics gathered by the Telework Research Network1 this gives managers the daunting task of supervising multiple employees at remote home offices. While this can seem like an impossible mission for even the most seasoned manager, it is possible to manage employees effectively who work from home using the following guidelines.
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Establish Clear Expectations
As a general rule, employees appreciate and respond well when there are clear instructions and expectations stated from the very beginning. Nothing makes a manager’s role easier than having a set of clear information, rules, and deadlines for employees who may otherwise feel “lost” working on their own each day. By creating written instructions, training materials, and keeping all employees up to date on important project deadlines, a manager will be able to get a better handle on his role.
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Create Open Communication
When a remote workforce wants to work seamlessly together and reach goals, communication is the key to success. Managers can foster this by creating open lines of communication at all times with employees. That means being available and responsive to questions, feedback, and suggestions at all levels of the organization. The best virtual managers use both verbal and written communication tools to encourage employees to keep in touch at all times.
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There is a wide range of technology out there that can be both a good and bad thing when it comes to managing work from home employees. For example, email can be used to send memos and files to employees, but it can also be a source of distraction throughout the day if used too frequently. Software that is required to do the job can become a barrier if an employee doesn’t have help to install it on a home computer. Make sure that any and all technology tools used on the job are utilized effectively and don’t become a source of problems for work-from-home employees.
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Encourage Regular Work Schedules
Although there is generally a great deal of flexibility when you're learning how to manage employees who work from home, there are times when personal issues spill over into professional work time. This is especially true with parents who work from home and care for children simultaneously. It's important to encourage employees to create set schedules that they can live with. Promote “consistency in work processes to provide structure”2. Try to be accommodating and use creative scheduling so that workers can establish a work schedule that allows them to focus on the work at hand.
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(1) Telework Research Network. Telecommuting statistics, retrieved at http://undress4success.com/research/telecommuting-statistics/
(2) Dwyer KP. The CBS Interactive Business Network. How to manage employees from remote locations, retrieved at http://www.bnet.com/article/how-to-manage-employees-in-remote-locations/165147. (2007).
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