Keys to a Successful Telework Program

September 20, 2011 - 0 Comments

Recently, my colleague Susie Kalousis, wrote an interesting post about teleworking. As the trend toward teleworking continues, we spend a lot of time talking about the technology and policies that will ensure the most effective telework program. But as Susie points out, we’re ignoring a critical component – the people! Contrary to what some might think, a recent study revealed that “Successful mobile workers tend to be resilient extroverts. They are open to new experiences and highly adaptable.” Other personality traits of successful teleworkers include stimulation seeker, tough survivor, curious explorer, independent decision maker and disciplined achiever. So when choosing between two equally qualified candidates for a role that requires teleworking, keep these traits in mind!

But there’s still another piece to the equation that needs to be considered. To be a successful teleworker, even possessing all the traits listed above, it’s also important to have a manager that understands how best to manage teleworking employees. With the Telework Enhancement Act in full swing, Federal workers are getting much more familiar with the idea of teleworking and the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a Guide to Telework in the Federal Government to help ensure a successful program. Among the many useful tips are 15 guidelines on how to become an effective manager of a teleworker.

It is critical that managers understand the many benefits of allowing employees to telework (i.e. provide continuity of operations during an emergency and reduce operational costs) and adopt the practice themselves. This lead by example approach will show employees that telework is not discouraged, nor will it prohibit them from getting the promotion they’ve been working so hard for.

Another key tip for managers is to set explicit communication expectations up front, such as initially agreeing on what technologies to use to maintain contact, what equipment the teleworker is responsible for providing (if any) and a schedule and protocols for changing that schedule and updating other team members.

The bottom line: For a successful teleworking program, consider all pieces of the equation, from the technology and policies to the employees you hire to well-trained managers.

Check out Cisco’s Jason Morwick’s interview with Federal News Radio where he discusses the importance of video for successfully managing teleworkers. Jason states, “…the biggest hurdles are not usually around technology, but around leadership, change management and dealing with an organizational culture.”

Are you a teleworker or do you manage a teleworker? What do you find makes it successful?

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