Managing Telecommuters: A Boss’s Perspective

Jet Blue’s got the right idea.  All of their reservation agents work from home.  They have created an entire webwork of telecommuters by using a computer network that feeds and monitors incoming calls to their at-home staff .

When I called Jet Blue to book a recent flight the reservation agent was very professional and pleasant.  If I hadn’t read about their telecommuting practices, I never would have known the difference.  At the end of the conversation I asked the agent, tongue in cheek, if she wears her bunny slippers to work (I couldn’t help myself).  She laughed, but didn’t answer.  I bet she does.

From a customer’s perspective, I appreciate the savings I get from Jet Blue’s cost cutting practices like the lack overhead for the reservations department.  From a boss’s perspective, I was inspired by their system of managing telecommuting employees. According to an article on cbsnews.com, Jet Blue had a 25% increase in productivity the minute they switched to this work-from-home system that accurately keeps track of each telecommuter’s work hours and performance feedback.

But how do the rest of us quantify our telecommuters’ work?   This is one of the biggest questions we bosses have about employees working from home.  How do I know how much they are working? Continue reading “Managing Telecommuters: A Boss’s Perspective”

Telecommuting as an Employee Benefit

When we offer employees the chance to work from home, they usually love it.  It’s become a perk for working with us – and it’s easy to set up.  There are a variety of ways to work with telecommuting employees, but I like videoconferencing the best.  It’s great to be able to see someone when you’re working with them.  There are two videoconferencing tools we use, iChat and Skype.  Some people feel iChat has better quality video but I prefer Skype.  The audio quality is so far superior it out weighs any minimal difference in video.  Bob O’Haver, my partner/husband here in the Berkshires has spent hours on end working virtually side by side with an associate in the LA area via Skype.  I admit it can take time to get used to being on camera, but after a while you forget it’s even on.  Be careful though…  forgetting you’re on camera can be embarrassing!  If you prefer, you can always make the video one way – so you can see them but they can’t see you.  I’ve also found the mute button to be a saving grace. 🙂 Continue reading “Telecommuting as an Employee Benefit”

The Five Biggest Mistakes in Telecommuting

FlexPath recently put out a listed of the five biggest mistakes individuals make in telecommuting.  Having been both a telecommuter and employer of telecommuters, I thought it was useful.  Here is FlexPath’s Five Biggest Mistakes in Telecommuting (in bold) with my perspective thrown in afterwards:

1. Neglect to set boundaries for themselves regarding work and personal responsibilities. I still find this quite challenging, even now after years of telecommuting.  Here’s what works for me (sometimes):

  • Have at least one work-dedicated phone line installed;
  • Set up a room or area that is exclusively for work;
  • Set a time when you ‘go home’ after which you don’t answer the phone or continue working (yeah, good luck with that!).

Continue reading “The Five Biggest Mistakes in Telecommuting”

Tools for Telecommuting

Telecommunting is on the rise for various reasons.  Gas prices, environmental issues, and the affordability of virtual office tools to name a few. I’m constantly on Skype or iChat (two video conferencing tools).  Last week I spent four days in California… virtually.  I literally had Skype on 8 – 10 hours each day, working closely with my employees in Los Angeles.  It took them an hour or so to get comfortable having my ‘Max Headroom’ like presence on the computer screen in the room, but after the initial transition period, it worked surprisingly well.   We could talk in real time, with no annoying delays, and work virtually side by side.  Continue reading “Tools for Telecommuting”