Question: Who is the intended audience?
Answer: Telecommuting – Managing Off-Site Staff for Small Business (c2001 Self-Counsel Press) is written primarily for small businesses, but the content could be used by businesses of any size – and even by individual managers/supervisors who are often the biggest barrier to embracing telecommuting. Why?
While telecommuting is often linked closely to technology, the truth of the matter is that being “out of sight and out of mind” is the biggest challenge that employees face when they broach the issue and the biggest fear that managers have about offering this option to existing or new employees.
Q: What is the book about?
A: This book is a very practical, how-to guide to managing a telecommuting program – not focused on the technology, but on the management/administrative issues such as how to identify which positions/individuals are best suited for telecommuting, how to establish guidelines/selection processes, how to establish goals/objectives that are measurable and can overcome the common “trust issues” involved in telecommuting relationships, how to maintain open lines of communication, etc.
The irony is that many large, multi-national firms really practice “telecommuting” all of the time without thinking about it. So do smaller, regionalized firms. So do organizations like banks, franchises, etc. Any time you have a supervisor physically removed from the employees s/he manages you have the same situation that telecommuting involves – just within the “comfort zone” of a corporate setting. In my most recent “day job,” for instance, I rarely saw my VP during the course of a business week unless we happened to be in a meeting together – we were in different buildings, across a corporate campus but, for all he knew, I could just as likely have been in my own home!
Q: Why are you the best person to write this book?
A: I wrote this book when a previous company I worked for was involved in a merger. I wasn’t able to relocate and was curious about other options that might be available to me. Having been a freelance writer for a number of years I wondered why I might not also be a “freelance corporate communication manager.” I was curious to know how prevalent the concept of telecommuting was.
Through my research I gathered a number of examples and learned a lot – specifically, at that time, that it was far more common for companies to allow *existing* employees to telecommute, but much *less* likely for companies to hire an unknown commodity like me! While recruiting telecommuters for sales/IT positions was more common, it really wasn’t a concept that had taken off – aside from those organizations with existing staff who, for some reason or other, wished to work from home.
As a manager I can understand the hesitancy – as a freelance writer I still consider it ironic that other types of organizations/positions haven’t capitalized on the ability to recruit and reap benefit from talent outside their geographic market area.
Q: How is this book different from other books on this topic?
A: This book is different from others on the market (and there really aren’t a lot of others on the market) primarily because of its practical focus. It’s really designed to address the managerial/supervisory issues/barriers to telecommuting and provide a framework/process for making it work to the benefit of both the organization and the telecommuters.
Specific criteria, checklists and agreements are included, as well as examples from companies that have and do offer telecommuting to their staff.
So how does a small-business owner make the leap? In the book, I offer a practical resource for implementing a program, including:
• Determining whether telecommuting is right for your company
• Training telemanagers and teleworkers
• Helping on-site staff to cope
• Communicating effectively
• Measuring the success of your program
• Taking care of the legal details
Q: Is there anything else we should know about this book?
A: Telecommuting is quickly becoming an expectation among today’s employees. The 24/7 culture is changing the way that employees and employers interact. It is changing the very nature of work. The reality of today’s world is harsh: employers need to reduce overhead; employees can’t afford to fill their tanks. Add to that the demand for work-life balance and it becomes clear that it’s time to embrace a new way of doing business.
The timing is great for this book – I was recently back in touch with my editors after receiving four unsolicited inquiries in two days about telecommuting. The rising gas prices, travel difficulties and general economic pressures are driving this interest I’m sure. Personally, I hope it takes off. I think many businesses – small *and* large are missing out on opportunities.
And, when you get right down to it, the “best practices” that are required for effective telemarketing programs are the exact same best practices required for effective management in any setting.