Telecommuting is not always a matter of working from home. Virtual team workers are often located in a satellite office, in another country or are temporarily out of the office. Today, many managers have no choice but to incorporate telecommuting members into their team structure. Mary Varughese, Mei Dey and Lisa Pyle from Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation tackled this difficult issue in their paper Telecommuting SAS®uccessfully for SAS Programmers. According to Mary Varughese, the paper’s presenter, the key to success is having good communication at every stage.
This paper was written for programmers, but as I listened, I realized that the issues tackled and the tips and secrets offered for success could easily be applied to all professions and industries.
According to Varughese, programmers have traditionally been heads-down workers. They arrived in the morning, did their work and left. Each programmer had his or her special way of doing things and that was OK as long as everything was documented. “Now, we need them to do more standardization so that programmers who are working on other continents or in other offices can collaborate and communicate more effectively,” she said. “We also need more collaboration across teams that we haven’t had to work with before.”
According to Varughese, that is the beauty of the flexibility of telecommuting, but it takes a focus shift for those managers who need to see a body in a chair. Here are some of the tips to successful telecommuting that she shared in her presentation:
- Telecommuting is not right for everyone – As a manager, be prepared to do the extra work to evaluate the work of the telecommuter. Set the expectations and then measure to those expectations.
- Communicate expectations – Both the manager and employee should specify what this relationship should look like. According to Varughese, telecommuters are usually the more experienced employees. But remember that this isn’t a scaled retirement; it’s telecommuting. Stipulate a schedule and tasks.
- As a telecommuter – Adhere to the requirements and communicate any changes. For instance, don’t leave your team hanging if you have a dentist appointment. Tell them where you’ll be and when you’ll be back.
- Be highly accessible.
- Communicate your hours to your manager and your team.
- Respond quickly to emails and IMs.
- Designate an office space – team members can tell when you are working from your couch or kitchen table.
- Structure your day.
- Minimize your distractions.
- Manage expectations of your friends and family – this is your work time, not time for chores, lunch or childcare.
- Make time for your team – Schedule face time with each member when you are onsite.
- Keep career development a priority – As a telecommuter, it is important to take notes of your achievements and self-promote. Don’t let offsite equal out-of-mind. You and your manager can also work together to find projects that will enhance your career opportunities.
Organizations are all expected to do more with less today. According the Varughese, telecommuting can help organizations retain top talent without some of the expense. And temporary virtual teams can be very effective at solving ad hoc problems. These environments, while helpful for solving complex problems for the corporation, also bring with them other issues. Read Telecommuting SAS®uccessfully for SAS Programmers for many more valuable tips.
What issues have you found and how have you solved them?