Managing the Everyday Teleworker

Charlene OHanlon

These days it's not uncommon to walk into an office and see more empty desks than workers. For some companies, it's a result of the ugly economy, but for others, it's the result of increased telecommuting, thanks to advances in mobility-enabling technology and a lot of inclement weather.

But in some environs, the phrase 'working at home' equates to 'stayed up too late, have a hangover, there's no way I'm coming into the office but I don't want to blow a sick day.' It's a mindset that isn't easily changed, no matter how productive an employee is out of the office and no matter how many studies are presented that show the upside of telecommuting.

Pareto Networks understands this, and has published a guide for companies grappling with a workforce that demands a more flexible work schedule and the need for high-level productivity. The company's eBook, 'The Definitive Guide to Telework,'  promises to give  managers the information they need to 'ensure organizational continuity, employee productivity and employee safety aren't compromised."

Although the eBook is pitched as a tool to get companies through the cold and flu season, with mobility becoming a norm in offices everywhere, it's a useful tool for any company looking to make the transition to a more flexible working environment.

Pareto's book offers the following tips to help make the process run more smoothly:

Implement a company-wide global telework policy so all employees -- from executive level to assistants -- are aware of teleworking protocol. (The company adds 'in the event that weather causes an office closure,' but it's a good rule for any situation.) Also, Pareto believes that teleworking should be mandatory for employees in the event of hazardous road conditions and flu/serious illness epidemics-and that is absolutely something I agree with.

Use a cloud-based networking solution to connect remote workers to a company's home base, ensuring that connectivity and network access are predictable and highly available.

Implement robust network security for network access from/to all computers used for teleworking to maintain a consistent security stance.

Conduct employee training to educate teleworkers on how to use Web and video conferencing technologies to facilitate distributed collaboration and how to set up their network, phone, etc. at their remote office.

Pareto Networks, which offers cloud-based networking, also proposes that companies invest in cloud-based solutions such as its Branch On Demand offering, whose subscription-based model shifts a capital expenditure to an operating expenditure and saves companies money-always a consideration.

 It's a safe bet that 2011 will see even more companies embrace the concept of telecommuting and mobility in an effort to trim their budgets even further. (Think of the money saved on utilities by not having a present workforce.) A well-designed and implemented telecommuting policy can not only mean serious cost savings but also happier, more productive employees. And that's good for any company.

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