Supervisory Leadership

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Why do telecommuting initiatives fail?

Telecommuting initiatives fail for two primary reasons. Sometimes the expectations are unreasonable and other times execution fails.

Both management and individual workers have expectations about what telecommuting will mean for them. Management may expect reduced costs, for example. Telecommuters often expect great flexibility.

Either side can be wrong about how things will work out. One preventive is good planning and careful pre-initiative study. For large companies, a live-fire trial in a couple of different situations can teach big lessons. It's also a good idea to roll things out slowly, on a trial basis, until details about how things will work out.

Companies should pay attention to: legal and liability issues; any equipment or support costs.

Individuals should pay attention to: reasonable expectations in terms of flexibility; the danger that working at home will mean working all the time or that work will intrude into family life in unacceptable ways.

I donít' see a right answer on any of these things. Instead a good process can help things come out right.

As for execution, the problems are usually with supervision. That includes setting clear and reasonable expectations and following up on performance.


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