Teleworking and Remote Work: Establishing Clear Guidelines

Along with benefits of improved productivity and reduced commute time, there are challenges too. Telework tends to amplify pre-existing worker challenges. Managers need to trust their employees are achieving the same performance results while working from home. Consistent and reliable communications is also a common challenge cited among teleworkers and their colleagues.

All employees should have clear guidelines and expectations when working from home. Ideally, there should be a company policy on telework along with a contract agreement between managers and employees on communication expectations and performance results. This policy should cover core work hours, communication expectations, IT equipment supplied, performance expectations and mandatory training.

Here are a few resources to learn more about teleworking and remote worker guidelines;

Minimize Telephone Interruptions

Have your phone calls go to voicemail during your uninterrupted time. Have your voicemail message articulate clearly the best times to reach you by phone and be sure to include your email address in your message as an alternative way to reach you. Colleagues and customers often express themselves more clearly in email, which in turn allows you to more effectively respond to them – and, to do so in a timely manner. When speaking on the phone, you can politely and professionally establish a time limit when necessary. For example, you can say, “Joe, I’ve only got 5 minutes, but I definitely wanted to get you the information that you called about.” This is probably not for each and every person you talk to but it could certainly be used with some colleagues and professional contacts.

Digital Pens instead of Note Pads for Meetings

Tired of all those scattered meeting notes and tablets?

Another upcoming product on the market is the digital pen, which records electronically the movement of the pen on paper. It then can be connected to a computer and transferred into software that will display the notes or convert it to text. This keeps an electronic running archive of all meeting notes, and you can discard the paper tablets.

There are few good products rated well on the market;
1. Echo Smartpen by LiveScribe
2. Pulse Smartpen by LiveScribe
3. Capturx for OneNote

Delegating Effectively: Using Microsoft Outlook

Once actions have been delegated, then the delegator can use the functionality within productivity software to track and manage those delegated items. The following are three methods to track delegated action items using the Task function in Microsoft Outlook but can also be applied to other productivity software’s such as Lotus Notes or Google.Adult business man reading and signing documents at his office

Create a category. Using categories in Outlook allows users to view e-mails or tasks assigned to a person in one group. In Outlook, there is only one category list to use for all functions including Calendar, Email, Contacts and Tasks. First, create a new category by the person’s name. Then, categorize e-mails or tasks that have been assigned to that person simply by right clicking on the task or e-mail item, choose Categorize and then click on the person’s name. Once items are categorized you can view them by category by clicking on View/Arrange By/By Category. When having a one-on-one meeting follow-up items can be quickly accessed by using the category view.

Create one task item. Another option is to create one task for each direct report or delegatee. Name the subject line of the task item by the person’s name. In the text and notes section of the task window, type in a listing of all action items with due dates. This can then be one location for all the delegated items for that person.

In Outlook, you can also create a table from the Insert ribbon inside the notes section of the task list. This can make it easier to track actions by creating columns for the action item, due date, completion date, notes and status of each delegated action.

Create separate task folder. In Outlook, separate task folders can be created. Click on the task folder and go to File/New/Folder and the Create New Folder dialogue window will open. Enter in the name of the person and click OK. This will create a new separate sub-task folder by that person’s name underneath the primary task folder. Then create individual task items under this new task folder for the delegated action items. All delegated task items are then organized under one task folder to make it easy to manage and track.

To learn more about all task list management, download Getting Tasks Done, by K.J. McCorry

Delegating Effectively

Most workers need to communicate, track and manage delegated task items. It is particularly important for project managers as well as supervisors who not only have to manage their own tasks but also need to make sure their direct reports get things done, too.

Whoever is responsible and accountable for an action item or project should delegate clear guidelines on completing a task as well as follow-through with others to ensure success of an action or project.

The following are key points to remember for effective delegation that can be used with both small tasks and large projects:

Communicate desired results. Make sure to provide the overall goal and purpose of the task or project along with the intended benefits and consequences if the action is not performed correctly. Providing this information supports decision-making for the delegatee during the course of a task or project.

Provide clear guidelines. Provide clear and concise instructions either verbally or via e-mail. Be clear on timeframes, budget, resource allocation and expectations in completing the task or project. Although some workers feel providing clear guidelines can be perceived as micro-managing, it is important to define the boundaries and be clear on assignment details.

Determine communication plan. Identify others or resources to contact in case there are questions or issues that arise during the task. This saves others time when they get stuck to know exactly who to reach out to for assistance. Also, determine the method and frequency in which follow-up will occur. This will eliminate confusion as to who contacts whom when a task is completed.