In a recent Department of Labor Women’s Bureau teleconference, I had the pleasure of serving as a panelist with Danette Campbell from the U.S. Patent Trademark Office and Shirley Crews Taylor from the Flexible Workplace Initiative (Flexworks) in Houston. We discussed our perspectives and advice for flexible workforces (part-time and virtual). Danette brought the federal government perspective of mitigating labor and office space shortfalls by augmenting full-time civil servants with a group of teleworkers. Shirley enlightened us on how Houston has reduced traffic congestion and pollution by allowing city employees to work from home and shift to off-peak work hours. I focused on the benefits of a virtual network from a corporate perspective to reduce costs and improve services.
Success Factors For Virtual Work Environments
Though the three of us represented vastly different work environments, we agreed on a variety of success factors:
- Communication: Because the team doesn’t work in the same location, managers and staff have to make an even greater effort to stay in touch, using all forms of electronic communication available (e-mail, instant messenger, chats, etc.) as well as direct discussions on the phone and face-to-face
- Clarity of expectations: Throughout the relationship, but especially before starting a virtual work situation, it is important for the employer and the employee to clearly articulate what they need and expect, including establishing metrics to allow both parties to measure success or identify when there is a problem
- Fairness and consistency: If you set parameters or allow privileges to one person, you need to do the same with others that have a similar title, position, or set of responsibilities
What have been your biggest challenges with having a flexible workforce?