Business planning

Are You Ready For a Flex Workforce?

teamworkSometimes the worlds of technology, activism, and social trends come together to create a big change. In recent years, we have seen that with the growing trend toward telecommuting.

Technology has made it possible for employees to conduct their business with the employer on almost the same level as if they reported for duty in person. Activism has emphasized the need for a greener way to work, making it of value to employers to keep their workers from having to clog traffic and burn fossil fuels in order to attend. And finally, a trend toward a more casual workplace has gotten supervisors to feel more comfortable with trusting their workers to be productive when they are off-site.

The most significant factor in making sure these workers are getting things done is having some way to know when they work and what they do, without being overly intrusive. That’s why Asure Software has grown to help many employers log time, manage communication, and work collaboratively.

It’s clear that technology makes it possible and practical for at least some employers to have personnel who work from home or out on the road. And the proper utilization of that technology, in conjunction with good remote management, can make distance workers a good fit for you.

But as is always the case, you will have particulars of your business that may or may not be conducive to telecommuting. Here’s a way to do a self-assessment and determine if it’s an avenue you may want to explore, or if it’s just something that others can try.

Employee Interaction

If an occasional sales meeting is all the time your employees need to spend in one another’s presence, telecommuting is fine. The sales staff can fan out all over the country issuing quotes, submitting bids, and closing deals. And you’ll save a great deal of money by having your Midwest representative stationed in the Midwest, as opposed to constantly shuttling him or her between there and headquarters.

But there is a lot to be said for synergy in certain workplace situations. That’s the positive creative and productive impacts of employees working together to maximize their use of one another’s strengths as well as their own. Certain types of designers, artists, and so forth may benefit by getting together physically and brainstorming, particularly if a construction of some type is going on, such as prototypes for a product.

As long as sporadic personal contact between personnel is sufficient, telecommuting will work. If teamwork requires assembling the team in person, you’ll need to stay together.

Customer Interaction

With a global reach, many companies rarely have face-to-face interaction with vendors or clients. Even when the staff is together in an office building, they communicate outside the company via telephone, email, or video conference.

But if your customers have a preference or a need to speak in person with representatives of your company–particularly if they want to do so on-site–it’s clearly going to be better to have your workforce all together. You can’t have a sales person 400 miles away and get him or her to the plant in three hours when a big-dollar client wants to talk, and it’s rare that a telecommuter’s home is a convenient meeting spot.

So the existence of a need for direct visits with various clients and suppliers is a key factor in determining whether telecommuting is practical.

Your Attitude

All the bricks and blocks might fall into place for your staff to telecommute, but in the end, it may come down to you. How comfortable are you issuing bi-weekly paychecks to someone you rarely see? Can you trust them, no matter how much accountability is in place, to do the work that you expect them to do? Can you accept that their output is at least as good as it would be if you greeted them daily at the coffee maker, or will you wonder if a staff on site with you would do more?

The logical part of the brain may be completely comfortable with these questions, trusting in systems to make it happen. But your emotional self may not ever fully trust the system. If you feel that telecommuting would erode your trust in your employees, it’s better to keep having them report in daily.

The opportunity to utilize telecommuting has its own set of issues. There is no one right answer for every business, so just explore things in the context of how you operate before deciding.

Do you have any questions? Please ask.