How to Know If Your Telecommuters Are Really Working

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- From conference calls and Skype chats to instant messages and GoToMeetings, today's corporate environment is as much out of the office as it is in. For many businesses, this means reduced overhead costs for office space and furniture and happier employees who don't have a commute or office gossip to worry about.

But in many cases it can be difficult for managers to supervise their remote employees properly, and too much freedom can lead to lost productivity and wages. Technology has evolved quickly to change the way we work, and companies must advance just as quickly to properly manage the staff they can't see on a daily basis.

Regardless of a company's work-from-home policy, Shanti Atkins, president and chief strategy officer of ethics and compliance firm Navex Global, says that the most successful organizations are those that focus on results.

"If the workplace culture is performance based, that allows managers to focus on results vs. micro-managing employees' day-to-day activities, which obviously becomes even more difficult with remote workers," Shanti says.

Shanti says a common problem is for remote workers to get less feedback and direction -- the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon.

"Managers need to ensure they are providing the same amount of oversight and support to their remote teams -- perhaps even more, given that these folks don't get to benefit from the 'in-the-hallway' conversations," she says.

When it comes to oversight, most managers will find that measuring results is the best way to supervise, says Linda Henman, author of Landing in the Executive Chair.

The one and only way to evaluate employees is related to expectations, Henman says. If a company sets clear goals and metrics, it should be easy to assess who is working and who isn't.

"If a person can accomplish all their work by noon and someone else can't do it in eight hours, who ends up being the better employee?" she asks. "Too many companies concern themselves with activities instead of results. If you keep results top of mind and evaluate according to them, the rest will take care of itself."

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