Mergers and acquisitions, plus flexi-time and multiple work sites, have created the need for alternative work situations – and in many cases, this means off-site teams. In the electronic age, employees at different sites can be connected by email, fax, telephone and web conferencing.
Whether your employees are working at a factory, office building or from home, addressing the issue of satellite staff is vital to your business’s success.
What type of employee is best suited for off-site work? Employees must be independent self-starters who do not need an on-site supervisor. They need to be assertive enough to state views and ask for help before situations become critical.
They must be self-critical workers who can evaluate their own work and know when input from others is needed. Most importantly, they must be able to create their own work schedule.
People working off-site or at home sometimes complain that they don’t feel part of the team. Also, developing a rapport with their supervisor can be difficult. As a result, it’s easy for milestones and deadlines to go unmet.
Unsupervised work can become distracted and less than optimal. An off-siter’s work may not be considered or valued as highly as that of on-site staff. And without an externally imposed structured day, work performance can suffer.
How can you ensure that your off-site employees’ productivity and success don’t falter? Firstly, communicate your expectations clearly, including key milestones and deadlines. The milestones should be firm and short-term to ensure that work is acceptable, timely and co-ordinated with on-site employees.
Feedback on progress should be specific, measurable, timely and action-oriented. Your remote workers should feel that they can easily seek out a supervisor for advice and input. To ensure accountability, goals must be clearly stated and written to guarantee agreement between all parties.
Starting off on the wrong foot or in an inappropriate direction can spell disaster, especially when working at different sites. Agreed-upon standards and levels of quality will help eliminate any doubt about what’s required.
Reporting relationships should be outlined; each employee must clearly understand to whom he or she reports.
The final aspect of off-site management to consider is communication. Often email is the easiest and the quickest, but it can lead to misinterpretation. The most effective means of sending and receiving messages is a combination of email, faxes, regularly scheduled telephone conference calls, and video and web conferencing.
While the visual component of the latter can help facilitate personal relationships, nothing can replace the quality of a face-to-face meeting. To improve working and personal relationships, schedule face-to-face meetings at least quarterly.