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Managing a Telecommuter
by Kirsten Ross, SPHR

For some leaders, allowing for telecommuting requires a change in management philosophy and style.  If you have been used to watching the clock and judging productivity based on the number of overtime hours your employees are working, you will need to change you mindset.  You will not be able to walk by the cubicle or office of the telecommuter to make sure that he or she is working rather than playing a game or making a personal phone call.  It can be a difficult change to make but Management By Objectives is actually a much more effective way to measure productivity. 

Managing by results versus activity will net better outcomes for you.  One of my favorite visuals from a performance management class that I used to teach had two mazes on it.  One had a line going directly and efficiently from start to finish with no wrong turns.  The other picture had a maze with a line going all over the place.  The finish was never reached.  The caption under it read, “Do not confuse activity with productivity.”  Just because you are able to see someone working and they appear to be busy does not mean that they are being efficient or effective.

You probably already do at least part of what is required for Management by Objectives.  You may do action planning with your direct reports or set annual goals.  Managing a telecommuter will probably require you to set some shorter term goals; perhaps weekly or monthly.  And you’ll need to review progress more frequently.  It will feel funny at first and you may feel like your employee is out of your control but in the long run, it is really a better way to manage.  You will know that your employee is making progress and being productive.  Soon, you will be able to make the transition to managing all of your employees in this manner (a necessary step to provide equity to all employees).

In addition, it is important to monitor the productivity of the group.  It is possible that the telecommuter may do very well on individual assignments but perhaps some of the important efforts of the group as a whole may suffer.  If this occurs, it doesn’t need to mean the end of telecommuting, but you may need to tweak some schedules or make some other adjustments.   

Kirsten Ross is mother of two sons and is a Certified Human Resource Professional (SPHR) dedicated to helping women achieve more life balance and to transforming the design of work.

Visit at to search our revolutionary flexible work job board featuring more than 35,000 fresh work from home, part time, job share, flex time and telecommuting opportunities, search for a job share partner or read valuable career, life balance and family articles.  You may also email her at




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