Government increasingly advocates for enhanced telework opportunities within the federal space. However, according to a 2013 report on telework in the federal government, many employees face management resistance when attempting to work remotely. This isn't really surprising. Teleworking has gotten a bad rap for decreasing productivity, disrupting work routines, and creating security issues. The recent Patent Office teleworking scandal has done nothing to help these negative perceptions.
Nevertheless, there are a number of benefits to be realized through teleworking, both for individual employees and the agencies in which they operate. Cost savings, improved morale, and decreased absenteeism are just a few.
But first, manager support for remote employees is crucial to reaping these benefits. Without someone to facilitate your transition, monitor your progress, and provide process troubleshooting, teleworking can easily become a disruptive burden rather than productive experience.
Here are five tips to help ease the transition to teleworking, and garner support from your manager to increase future remote opportunities.
Tip #1: Consider your limits before you leave the office
When you aren't a permanently remote employee, you will naturally face some challenges in transitioning to a home setting. For example, you may find you don't have the internet bandwidth at home to support the multiple online processes your work normally requires. Working in the public sector, your job may add even more constraints to this transition. When seeking confidential information, you may be unable to access secure, local files from your remote location.
These challenges aren't insurmountable but you should consider them before you leave the office and alter your workflow accordingly. This may mean rescheduling your remote time to days when you don't need certain functionality, or it may just mean alerting your supervisor of your constraints. Whatever you do, don’t wait until your home to figure out what you can and can't accomplish.
Tip #2: Communicate
Before you leave the office, it's important that you clearly communicate expectations with your manager. Establish expectations for how and what you will accomplish. Even if your manager doesn't directly ask, you need to answer the following questions before you leave:
- How often are you expected to check in?
- What technologies will you use to do your work, and stay in touch?
- What hours will you be at your virtual desk?
- If you experience a disruption while at home (technical or person), what are your next steps to re-engage?
- What are your work priorities while remote?
Tip #3: Produce results
I've heard from a number of friends that the best way to show you're actually working from home is to quickly answer emails or constantly touch base with coworkers. I disagree. Sure, that shows that you're looking at your computer. But I can look at my computer while watching the Kardashians like a pro. Moreover, constantly checking in can be disruptive to your workflow.
Instead, try to set at least one goal for your day that produces measurable results. For example, finalize a report, write a detailed memo, or draft a work plan for an upcoming project. That way, you have a deliverable that proves the effort you put into work during your day away from the office. A finished product will say a lot more about your productivity than an email update could.
Tip #4: Help your manager help you
Telework.gov offers a ton of tips and support for managers working with remote employees. If you manager isn't using these resources, it's time for you to take the lead. Point them towards the website or, better yet, peruse it yourself. Figure out who your Telework Managing Officer (TMO) is, determine the telework-eligibility of yourself and your team, and discover what training is available to smooth the transition to remote work. Then, when your manager runs into a barrier approving telework, you can quickly point them to a solution.
Tip #5: Highlight the advantages of teleworking
OPM cites a number of benefits to managers that teleworking produces, including increased staff engagement, better work-life balance, and decreased absenteeism. However, these results aren't always obvious, especially in the short-term. It's up to you to make the impact of teleworking more evident. How? Every time you work remotely, make sure to relate to your boss how the experience enhanced your productivity or improved your engagement. Simply saying “Thanks for letting me work from home. I was able to get so much more done!" or "I feel so refreshed after teleworking!” shows your appreciation and emphasizes the positive effects of teleworking.
What are your tips on effective teleworking and garnering management support for it? Tell us in the comments!
Photo Credit: Tanel Teemusk/Flickr