by Wayne Turmel
If nearly half of your employees were eligible to do something, would you have a policy for it? What if you wanted them to do something but they weren’t doing it? Surely there’d be a plan for that. But when it comes to teleworking, most organizations are just letting it evolve naturally, without much of a strategy in place.
Recently, the US Government offered a pretty good case study for how to be intentional about making the move to telework.
The US Government is a pretty good example of how this happens. We’re not picking on government workers… in fact their strategy is more clear than most companies. But the sheer number of people involved, and how fast things are changing, makes them a pretty good case study.
According to a 2016 study from Telework.gov, in a report to Congress, there are some pretty startling numbers to consider:
- 44% of federal employees are eligible for teleworking on at least a part-time basis. That’s based on 2.2 million direct employees (so about 970,000 give or take).
- Of those, the number of eligible employees who take advantage of the opportunity to work from home or elsewhere has risen from 39-46%
- This means that there are 446,000 government employees currently working remotely, with another half million who could start at any time.
- This number doesn’t include private contractors, over half of whom have telework options.
- Because of budget restrictions, the cost of real estate, and other considerations, there is an active push to encourage people not to co-locate.
- The report states that 61% of their goals have been met. That may sound low, but it’s actually in line or above the results in private industry.
This is not unique to public sector work. In fact, the government has been slower to react to the growth in teleworking precisely because they understood there would have to be a plan in place. Most private companies “leapt before they looked.”
Regardless of whether your company is public or private sector, here are just some of the things you need to take into account, and the earlier the better to avoid unpleasant surprises:
What hours are people expected to work and how will you manage those expectations?
Expect multiple lawsuits over the next few years as teleworkers realize they have been working longer cumulative hours than their colleagues who make the commute. You’ll want to put those processes in place before the courts do.
Who owns the equipment they have, and do they even have what they need to do their jobs?
Is everyone on your team expected to use webcams or a certain kind of software? Who pays for that? If they are using their own devices, who is responsible for repairs and replacement? Are you sure?
Do the managers understand how to lead people who aren’t in the office?
Leading remotely requires different tools and thinking than working in the same location. Has your organization prepared leaders to meet these challenges?
If they know what to do, are you giving them the tools they need?
Working and leading remotely depends largely on having the appropriate technology at hand, and using it effectively. When was the last time you looked at what tools are available? Maybe more importantly, how well do people use the tools at their disposal? Eighty percent of managers use 20% of the features of most communication tools. When that’s what your job depends on, is that enough?
There’s plenty more, including HR processes and performance management that must be adjusted to ensure the team functions at a high level. How prepared is your organization to meet these challenges?
How do you know?
If you want to know you’re prepared to lead a teleworking team, make sure you have the right tools. Check out The Remote Leadership Toolkit so you can lead your team intentionally and not have to rely on accidental success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.