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How to make teleworking programs work

Business technology has paved the way for flexible workplaces and a growing network of teleworkers.

Thinking of establishing a teleworking program at your workplace?

With 1 in 8 Australian employees projected to have regular teleworking arrangements by 2020, it’s an ideal time to think about the pros and cons.

Dr Rachelle Bosua, Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information Systems at The University of Melbourne, has provided some insights to help you get started:

Know your workers and their abilities

Assess the skills of your team. Do you know who is highly productive and who works well unsupervised?

Teleworking programs demand significant levels of trust between management and staff – i.e. trusting that task-oriented outcomes can be achieved despite where individuals or teams work.

Decide wisely, start off small and trial first

Consider how your business systems and processes may need to change to accommodate teleworkers. Will your business require additional tech support?

Do you have a sense of the roles that are suitable for teleworking? Decide whether you would offer the program to a dedicated group based on a type of work or based on levels of trust you’ve established with members of your team.

Set clear, achievable, and measurable program outcomes

A clearly defined teleworking program scope, with workplace guidelines and evaluation methods will increase the chance of your program’s success.

Having a detailed written agreement in place will help to minimise problems over time and should include aspects such as communication and information sharing (including security) protocols, expenses and procedures etc.

Manage the task, rather than the person

Establishing tasks and timeframes required for each teleworker is an important part of teleworking programs. For example, set up a Monday morning teleconference for task-setting, follow this up with regular communication e.g. a weekly or fortnightly work-in-progress teleconference sets clear expectations for individuals and teams.

And remember that when it comes to teleworking, output is a lot more important than the input.

Promptly address any teleworking problems 

Open communication is critical to any teleworking program, so address issues promptly. If a teleworker fails to meet outcomes, address the issue within 1-2 days, referencing the teleworking agreement.

To help safeguard your business, ensure you have strategies or agreements in place for teleworkers that don’t perform.

Develop a sense of reading communication ‘cues’

Because teleworking often doesn’t require face-to-face interactions, you will need to be mindful of ‘cues’ mediated by technology (e.g. tone of voice), to assess how your teleworkers are tracking. Videoconferencing can help overcome this.

Schedule regular social interactions with your entire team 

Get the team together regularly to not only discuss individual and team tasks and deadlines, but also to discuss expectations and to socialise to help boost team engagement and rapport.

Develop and cultivate an understanding of a new work culture

Teleworking programs require management buy-in, so brief your team and other managers to ensure people understand the concept and to clarify potential misconceptions.

Enjoy the benefits of retaining and attracting great staff

Teleworking is an attractive draw card for today’s workplaces. With well-structured, documented and carefully implemented teleworking programs in place, enjoy the opportunity to attract and retain the best staff who can deliver from anywhere.

Angely Greciahttp://myob.com.au/
Angely Grecia is MYOB's public relations editor. At MYOB she carries out editorial content-creation, media relations and assists the PR team on implementing strategic PR programs.