Five Signs That Telecommuters Are Slacking Off

by Gina M. Costa

Workers are missing in action.
If telecommuters aren’t responding to phone calls, e-mail, or pages, then what are they doing? “With the right [equipment] there is no reason to not be able to reach employees, no matter where they are,” says Lisa Strauss, proprietor of Lisa’s Tea Treasures, a California franchise that creates and sells original tea blends. “If I can’t, then I have to wonder.”

Deadlines are off target.
Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder ­ especially for telecommuters who fail to keep managers apprised of their progress. “I need to know where workers are in relation to deadlines,” says Bill Bunge of Philadelphia’s Naval Inventory Control Point. “If they can’t give me a progress report, I know they’re not working as efficiently at home as they are in the office.”

Details are slipping through the cracks.
Even the best technology doesn’t cover the little things. It’s up to employees to make sure they aren’t missed. “Each [remote person] is responsible for sending me work on a daily basis,” says Jane Montiel, branch manager of St. Louis, Mo.-based PRN Transcription Inc., a medical transcription company. “[Sometimes] they’re not paying attention to what they’re sending. When that happens, I know they’re not doing what they’re supposed to.”

Revenues are stagnant.
Many managers find it more cost effective to remotely train and manage employees. “My business should actually grow faster this way,” says Duane Hopper of the Century 21 Real Estate Center in Lynwood, Wash. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that employees will work harder. “If business is still sluggish, then that means I have to keep closer tabs on my agents,” says Hopper.

Clients are grumpy.
Customers expect instant gratification, no matter how far apart employees are. “My employees should be able to work with clients as though they are in the office,” says Michael Andrews, president of Kindred Konnections, a genealogical Web site that offers both free and membership services. “If a client isn’t getting timely support, we have tools to help us track and . . . confirm their progress in support of our customers.”

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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