Career Center Blog

December 28, 2010

How managers can help telecommuters succeed


Thumbnail image for telecommute.jpgWe've talked a lot on this blog about how employees can make telecommuting work. But managers also need to play a part in ensuring that remote workers are sufficiently integrated with the team and as productive as their onsite counterparts.

[Photo by DDFic]

I recently spoke to workplace author and journalist Alexandra Levit about this topic for an article she was researching for Fortune. As I told Levit, there are a number of steps managers can take to be more inclusive of telecommuters, help them engage with the rest of the team, and ensure they're as dedicated to their work as they should be. My suggestions follow:

Devise a formal check-in plan for remote workers. Have telecommuters email you or the entire team weekly status updates on their projects. A weekly conference call or web meeting during which all remote and onsite members of the team swap updates can also do the trick. Besides keeping remote workers accountable and keeping you abreast of what they've accomplished each week, it helps add structure and continuity to what can sometimes be a very fluid and far less structured way of working.

Ensure remote workers can easily communicate with the onsite team. Telecommuters and onsite workers should be easily accessible to each another by internal instant messaging tools and corporate email systems during business hours. Likewise, remote workers should be able to access phone and web conferencing tools seamlessly to join meetings held at the main office.

Give remote workers access to key applications and websites. Telecommuters need access to the same software and web portals your onsite workers have. This includes all corporate intranets, websites, files, and folders necessary to complete their work. You don't want remote workers constantly emailing your onsite staff to forward them key files or documents housed on the corporate server because they can't access them. Not only is this inefficient, it can create resentment between offsite and onsite workers.

Require full-time telecommuters to come to the office periodically. If they're within an hour or so of the office, bring them in for a meeting with the entire onsite team once a month or quarter. If they're a couple of hours or time zones away, limit such meetups to once or twice a year. Invite remote workers who can easily travel to your office to all holiday functions, company picnics, and other morale or social events -- it will help solidify their relationship with the rest of the team. Fail to do so and you foster an environment of telecommuters feeling like -- and possibly even being treated like -- second-class members of the team.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide." E-mail Michelle at

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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