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Remote workers: Avoiding double trouble that comes with them

Roy Harris | Sept. 28, 2011
As if to underscore the growing importance of the topic, a recent survey of 1,400 CFOs tackled a single question: corporate acceptance of arrangements for offsite workers. But how the finance executives answered the question was just as noteworthy.

'Remote Control'

The Robert Half and Accountemps organizations see planning as the answer to both the security and productivity pitfalls.

"Businesses that are considering remote work arrangements should set clear policies and establish specific productivity goals," says Max Messmer, the Accountemps chairman, who may be almost as well-known for his authorship of the Human Resources Kit for Dummies.

In a position paper accompanying the report on its brief questionnaire, it outlines several areas in which companies must plan carefully to establish what it calls "remote control," and meet the challenges of the diffused workforce.

Communicating regularly --- through telephone and in-person arrangements, rather than via email --- helps companies get the word out, and keeps employees feeling more connected both with managers and colleagues. Meanwhile, finding proper resources to keep employees hooked up, with the right security systems, is just as important.

Software and Checkpoints

"This cannot be a one-size-fits-all operation," says Fay. But in all cases "there have to be reporting metrics in place." Choosing the right software for the company's needs is vital, as is aligning access to an employee's specific job function. She recommends frequent recap sessions -- weekly or more often -- detailing what teams with offsite components have accomplished.

"You have to have more checkpoints in place when you have a lot of remote workers," according to Fay. In an office setting more checkpoints are naturally in place, "because you see employees at the water cooler, or in the lunchroom."

An overall plan benefits from having regular meetings or seminars, "where individuals can come together and not only share knowledge, but establish camaraderie."

Use systems like Skype to help the connections grow. Newsletters, too, should become a more important part of the plan when more workers are remote. "And use lots of pictures of individuals; it helps pull the teams together."


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