By now many companies have figured out the benefits of allowing employees to telecommute. Besides saving a company money on office space, telecommuters are often more productive, experience less absenteeism, and are less likely to be lured away to other jobs. Salespeople especially tend to be great telecommuters because their work requires them to be self-directed and self-motivated. However, managing and motivating them remotely can have some distinct challenges.
Trust is a key issue in telecommuting. Continually checking up on an employee could come across as mistrust. If you ask for an accounting of your telecommuters’ every second on the job, you’re going to create bitterness and resentment. To manage effectively, have some check-in times or e-mail or daily instant messages about activities, but don’t micromanage your telecommuters. To help alleviate stress later on, you and your employees should have agreements upfront about how work time at home should be spent, along with some specific meeting or check-in times. Don’t wait until you think there’s a problem. Set parameters that are open and easily met, but state your expectations before there’s a misunderstanding.
Trust goes both ways as well. Your employees should be able to trust you to be available when you say you will be. If you have a meeting, even if it is by phone, make sure you honor that time commitment. When someone is not in the office and poking their head in your door, it’s easier to set that meeting aside. But remember, their time is valuable whether they are in the office or not, so make sure to respect it.
Delegate and Communicate
If you can delegate, you’ll be a good manager to your telecommuting sales staff. If you can give your staff an assignment with very clear goals and objectives, they should be able to accomplish tasks whether they are in the office or working from home. You will cause them less stress and anxiety and you can move on to other objectives, knowing your telecommuting team will handle sales effectively.
Communication is key to this delegation. If you communicate the goals and objectives effectively, your sales staff should be able to pick up the ball and run with it, without too much additional input from you. Communicating just what you expect, when you expect it, and what the results should be will give your staff clear targets and there will not be any questions about the deadlines for reaching these goals.
You also need to remember to keep your telecommuting sales staff informed of day-to-day changes and updates in the office or they will feel left out and misinformed. If you do not communicate effectively, you could be setting up your salespeople to fail, and ultimately that reflects right back on you as a manager.
Motivate Your Telecommuters
Telecommuters do not have the day-to-day social contact with other staff members and it can be difficult to motivate them if you think along traditional lines. Telecommuters like having control over their schedules and lives, so allowing them to choose their own working hours and schedules is a strong motivator.
Training and continuing education are motivators, too. Besides adding to employees’ skills, these activities can get them out among coworkers and give them a break from the everyday work routine. The same goes for team building and sales meetings with the staff, which helps keep them in the loop with other employees and the company’s goals and objectives.
Urge your telecommuting sales staff to participate in professional organizations, sales seminars, and other organizations that benefit salespeople and help them get out into the community and make new contacts. This will benefit their sales goals and it makes them feel as if they are an integral part of the team.
Remember, the reason your employees are telecommuting is that they believe they can be more efficient and productive. Your job as their manager is to make sure they are able to do the best job they can. It takes a certain amount of adaptation on both ends. If you can successfully communicate your expectations, telecommuting can pay off in dividends for both employee and employer.