Telework: How Engineers are “Managing by Results”

Commuting to work in heavy traffic and then sitting in an office environment for long hours is becoming less of a reality for those who work in engineering firms. Part time workers, job sharing and working from home are all possible scenarios for modern businesses.

Although some industries have offered flexible working hours for employees for quite some time, telework, also known by some as distributed work, mobile work, telecommuting and remote work, is becoming more and more common.

Engineering companies that offer flexible working options are finding there are many benefits for employers, employees and even the environment. One of the main benefits is that it promotes and encourages work-life integration.

Working remotely gives employees more control over when and how their work is accomplished. It might allow a busy mom to take the kids to school or offer dad the opportunity to attend his children’s sports activities in the afternoon.

For employers, some of the advantages include less physical office space, equipment and parking required. There is often more productivity due to minimal distractions with colleagues and some reports even say there are less sick days and staff turnover.

With fewer people commuting to work, there is a decreased amount of traffic on the roadways, which ultimately leads to less fuel and air pollution. Both have a positive effect on the environment.

In terms of employee and employer benefits, companies have found that a telework program is good for their bottom line, according to a recent case study completed in San Diego, California, by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). San Diego-based businesses with telework programs reported that “productivity increased by more than 20 percent, employee morale improved, and telework programs provided a competitive edge by helping to attract and retain talented employees.”

According to research by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, based on an analysis of 2005–2014 American Community Survey data (US Census Bureau), 3.7 million employees currently work from home at least half of the time. The number of people who regularly work at home has grown by 103% since 2005.

Global Workplace Analytics’ research also found that “Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile. Studies repeatedly show they are not at their desk 50–60% of the time.”

Although there are many benefits to telework, working away from the office does require a fair amount of trust and good communication between an employee and his or her supervisor.

Here are 5 best practices to manage and monitor off-site workers, based on information from hrcouncil.ca and an article written by Melany Gallant from Halogen Talent Space.

Set clear policies
 To ensure projects are completed effectively, be clear with off-site workers about your expectations and theirs. Some firms find it is helpful to require workers to submit weekly updates. While it might sound like a good idea, many employers have found that they are not filled out accurately and thus not a good indication of the progress made.

Provide proper equipment and training
 A mobile phone, laptop, and remote access to the company’s network and corporate messaging are all important tools for those working off-site. Access to this technology also promotes team-building among employees. For example, an internal discussion board can help employees collaborate while creating strong bonds.

Maintain good contact
 It can often be challenging to stay in touch with remote workers. In addition to regular phone and email correspondence, video conferencing is a great option. Emails can easily be misinterpreted by the recipient, so face-to-face communication is paramount. It helps convey body language and facial expressions so the message is not lost in translation.

Use the “Management by Objectives” approach
 Also known as “Management by Results,” this model aims to improve an organization’s performance by setting goals and action plans that are agreed upon by managers and employees. The evaluation of an employee’s performance is based on the results. It is helpful to involve employees in the process of setting the initial goals to encourage more “buy in.”

Adopt a system of 360 Degree Feedback
 This is a process in which employees receive feedback about their behavior and performance from those they work closest to. These include coworkers, peers and their immediate manager.

By taking a little time and preparation, employers can find new ways to manage and support employees, which will be beneficial to both the business and its staff in terms of financial gains and promoting work-life integration.

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Stacey Phillips is a writer and editor at iConnectEngineers™. At iConnectEngineers™, we use engaging content, creative design, and smart campaigns to bridge the worlds of business, marketing and social innovation with a primary focus on the engineering and technology industries.

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Originally published at www.iconnectengineers.com on December 24, 2016.