Phoning it in (the Right Way)

More from the IQPC confab. This blog is by Doug Utley, a Raleigh, N.C.-based partner for management consulting firm ScottMadden.

Doug_utley_work_logo Telecommuting continues to spread across the business world. Now it's arriving in shared services.

Thing is, shared-services centers often are staffed by non-exempt employees accustomed to close supervision. Allowing these staffers to telecommute presents both positives and negatives.

Before even considering such a set-up, companies need to nail down some prerequisites. You need responsible employees, obviously, but also policies in place governing the telecommuting, with the first one being that it's a privilege, not a right. Remote software capabilities need to have adequate bandwidth and probably ought to be facilitated by VoIP systems. You'll also need remote monitoring and training software.

Got it all? Then consider the advantages of allowing your shared-service employees to telecommute. They include: the chance for improved productivity because commuting time goes to zero, better work-life balances and morale, a larger pool of potential employees and less reliance on "face time" to measure employee achievement.

The negatives are manageable but real: Scheduling challenges, virtual workers not set up to "team" well with at-the-center employees, less flexibility in moving employees from job to job and, of course, a lack of direct supervision.

A further word on the teambuilding aspect: Service centers are built to spark team work. So employees need to be there long enough to become part of the team before being granted the privilege of telecommuting. That could take as much as a year or longer.

Organizations also need to take a look across the whole operation and ask: "How much telecommuting should be allowed? What's the max? What's the ideal? The answers to those very important questions will be influenced by the corporate culture and the past experiences, if any, with telecommuting.

I'd love to hear about your shared-service telecommuting experiences and impressions.