Ahead of the pope's visit to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is calling on federal agencies to allow teleworking during his visit. On Sept. 3, OPM released teleworking guidelines for federal agencies in the Washington area to follow during Pope Francis's visit, which is schedule for Tues., Sept. 22 through Thurs., Sept. 24 in the capital district, and for which President Obama plans a personal welcome. "To help alleviate traffic congestion and minimize distraction to law enforcement and security officials, agencies are urged to permit employees to use their workplace flexibility options," OPM's guidance said. The real question about teleworking may be whether federal agencies are truly primed to encourage it, particularly since a federal patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) was recently exposed for racking up more than 18 weeks of pay for work that was never done. For more insight into teleworking, eWEEK interviewed Glenn Oclassen, senior vice president of customer success at Replicon, a provider of time and asset management solutions, about how organizations can best manage remote workers and set policies.
Establish Teleworking Policies Up-Front
Think about the parameters for teleworking. The policy should set the right tone in outlining the privileges it provides to employees to perform their duties outside the traditional office walls, including information on eligibility, scheduling and compensation. You also may want to address related topics, such as overtime, attendance at meetings, travel expenses and workers' compensation.
Communicate Policies to Employees and Gain Supervisor Buy-In
Once the policy has been finalized, share it with your team and make sure that all employees understand the details and sign off on the policy. Make sure that the policy is somewhere easily accessible, such as on the company intranet, and that managers and HR can answer any additional questions.
Scrutinize the Roles in Your Business
Not all job functions are optimal for telework. Certainly, the office receptionist cannot work remotely, and people that need to have regular contact with other employees, such as HR, also will fall into that category. Conduct an analysis to understand what jobs can benefit from more flexible working arrangements and match this against your teleworking policy.
Engage Your IT Department
Teleworking should support more efficiency and productivity, but that won't happen if the technology isn't up and running. Make sure the IT team is engaged to set up remote access for employees, including secure VPNs and other applications to get the job done.
Establish Clear Performance Indicators
It's not about where you work but about getting the work done. While in-person interactions are still critical to doing business—and there may be lingering questions on how productive a teammate is who is often out of the office—placing importance on results will help alleviate concerns. Time and attendance solutions simplify how time is captured across the workforce, while project costing solutions deliver insights into how time is spent across projects, which can be compared against deadlines and deliverables.
Start With a Small Team and Scale Based on Achieved Results
If you have a relatively new team or business, keeping operations tight as you scale up may mean that teleworking is minimized at the onset. Figure out the best way to roll out remote working across teams and how this can be expanded as your business develops.
Remember to Include Teleworkers
According to Ipsos Research, 62 percent of global teleworkers feel socially isolated when they don't see their colleagues face-to-face every day. Whether you're more or less remote than your colleagues, make sure that there are regular touch points to communicate with teams beyond email, such as weekly phone calls and virtual meetings.
Incorporate Feedback Mechanisms
The federal patent examiner at the PTO was identified as a poor performer, but was able to fly under the radar for months until an anonymous letter appeared from a disgruntled co-worker. In addition to ensuring employees have clear performance metrics, provide open opportunities for teammates to give each other 360-degree feedback and support.
Provide Training Specific to Teleworking
While remote working is widely adopted in some businesses, employees who are "out of sight" can give others the impression that they are less productive and focused, compared with office-bound employees. Make sure that everyone is trained to understand the essentials of teleworking, what makes a successful teleworker, team success factors and how to maximize technologies.
Review Your Teleworking Policy and Make Changes as Needed
Program evaluation tools should be adopted from the outset to support and evaluate teleworking in any business. 'Time asset management solutions enable businesses to access time, resource and project-related data and view these in configurable reports that can be compared over many years. This can help adjust teleworking policies as these evolve.