It may not always be possible, but managers find bringing virtual employees to the home office a few times per year to network with co-workers and business leaders has value. “As manager, your job is to pull your team members together every once in a while, regardless of where they work,” Williamson says. She also feels that remote workers need to be coached honestly on their career opportunities; some may never advance unless they work from the headquarters.
Among employers, the common objection to working remotely has been the fear that it would encourage slacking off. Some remote workers do, in fact, turn into slackers, take advantage of their situations and wind up getting fired.
Business owner Patrice Rice has learned that the right management style often can prevent that from happening.
Rice launched her business, a restaurant and hospitality recruiting company, with employees in 40 cities across the country, and eventually moved to a franchise model. “It was hard for me to understand why someone would want to pay me money to buy a franchise and then sit home and not work. Why would they want to do this if they are not motivated and self disciplined? It was a real eye opener.”
Rice learned that franchisees — just like remote workers — need to feel connected to a home base. Now, for the first 90 days, she virtually “touches” her new franchisee at least once a day and uses technology to work together online on spreadsheets. “I let them know they are part of something and I’m committed to their success.”
Javier Burdman, Rice’s new Miami franchisee, has set up an office with three employees calling it Talex USA. He says he wants the ongoing communication with Rice that remote workers seek out, whether it’s a phone call, text or a video conference. “When you’re miles away, it helps to know you have someone working with you to solve problems.”
Meanwhile more companies are considering allowing their professionals to work remotely, even on a part-time basis. Michael Goodman, a partner at public relations firm Bitner Goodman in Fort Lauderdale, says he and his partner, Gary Bitner, bought an office building earlier this month and adjusted their space needs to allow more staffers to work remotely.
“We believe that with the right equipment and right planning in place, people don’t have to be at our side.” Goodman already manages a remote worker and works from home himself a few days a week. He says working virtual works when a manager creates a plan for each client account with deliverables and deadlines, and talks regularly with his staff — wherever they are — to update it. “I also take it to another extreme. I’m copied on everything to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Goia says the managers of the future will be coached to focus on results. “For some, that’s an exception to what they’ve always done, but they will find it’s worthwhile.”
Workplace columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at email@example.com or worklifebalancingact.com.