We hear a lot about the challenges organizations face when they consider virtual employees or telecommuting options. These challenges are even more predominate when discussing flexible work options or results only work environment (ROWE). How can they evaluate an employee’s performance? How can managers ensure that they’re working full-time? Will there be backlash from employees who work in a traditional capacity? After working as a virtual employee for almost a year and a half, I can honestly say that it works… sometimes.
There are a lot of factors that affect the success of these flexible options. Before a company or an employee decides that this is right for them, consider the following:
- Employee personality: As an employee, it’s important to really understand yourself as an individual and as a professional. For me, virtual work was ideal because I knew that I have a type A personality and my morale is higher when I don’t feel the watchful eyes of a micromanager. Additionally, I can produce better results more frequently in my private (and quiet) office than I would at a distracting workplace. Although this has worked for me, many people informed me that they would probably go crazy without social interaction. Others have admitted that the leniency of being home could distract them for work. It would be best to think about these things if considering this as an option.
- Employee functions: As a company, you need to determine if full-time telecommuting or ROWE work for this particular job. Does an employee need to be available at certain times to interact with other members of the company or clients? Can the employee handle tasks remotely or are there some things that require the employee to be on-site? Does their status/level cooperate with the type of employees in it, such as, are they responsible and can self-manage?
- Restructuring of management functions: This might be one of the toughest areas to figure out but it’s definitely not impossible. In my current experience with virtual employment, I have the privilege of working for a company that seems to have this sorted out. Even if it isn’t perfect, they take the measures needed to ensure ongoing improvements. Somehow their ability to increase support through communication and measure productivity without micromanaging has actually helped me feel a stronger connection with my leadership team and direct managers. Despite the fact that I’m not physically working in front of them every day, they have taken the time to recognize my achievements as well as areas I’ve struggled in. Does it take extra time out of their week to pay attention to their individual employees? Sure, but it’s the best experience I’ve had with a manager thus far.
- Benefits: For companies, there can be plenty of benefits as far as cost savings go due to reduction of overhead. When it comes to hiring, it allows employers to find diverse talent and top candidates because they aren’t limited to one specific area. As an employee, it can be really beneficial for your everyday life. I’ve been told that mothers enjoy the ability to be available to their children when they are home or sick. Military spouses like the mobility aspect when their significant others move around. I personally like it because I don’t feel restricted to a particular area. If I wanted to move to another state or travel, I could do it tomorrow. I also love the fact that I don’t have to waste time commuting or spending money on clothes or gas. Instead, I actually have more time to actually do the things that matter, like work.
- Challenges: Of course, there are always challenges. How can managers keep morale high if on-site employees feel like virtual workers have it easier? Can managers ensure the virtual workers have the same exposure to internal mobility? How do managers know that their virtual workers are being productive? These are just a few things that companies face when developing and implementing flexible work options.
I’m an advocate for virtual work, telecommuting and flexible options. I don’t think employees should be limited or confined and that some of these options can actually help employees performed better and allow companies to retain talent. Of course, I’m aware that this doesn’t always work and that a great deal of thought and strategy has to go into the development and management of it. However, for me personally, I would love to stay in a virtual position for as long as I can.
Want to know what others think about this? Check out the discussion on #TChat tonight at 7pm ET. Take a look at a preview here.