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Managing Teleworkers Requires Topnotch Performance Management Skills

Managing Teleworkers Requires Topnotch Performance Management Skills

Whether you use the term telecommuting, flexible workplace, remote work, virtual work, mobile work or telework, all are terms used to refer to an arrangement in which an employee regularly works at an alternate work site such as the employee's home, a telecenter, or other location that allows him or her to accomplish work in an effective and efficient manner. For Federal agencies, telework is of particular interest for its benefits in the following areas:

  • better use of employees' peak productivity periods within the limits of established laws
  • potential for increased productivity
  • continued essential Government operations and services in emergency situations
  • improved work atmosphere due to fewer co-worker non-business interruptions
  • improvements in employee morale and effectiveness
  • retention of skilled employees and reduction in turnover due in part to increased job satisfaction
  • cost savings to the Government in regard to office space, sick leave absences, and energy conservation
  • accommodation of employees with short- or long-term health problems or family responsibilities, such as those associated with elder care and latch-key children
  • reductions in transportation costs including car insurance, maintenance, and wear
  • reduction in automobile-created air pollution and traffic congestion

Many managers balk at granting teleworking privileges to their employees. Managers often cite concerns about managing remote workers due to a perceived loss of control over efficient business operations. Many managers are accustomed to communicating face-to-face. Managing teleworkers places added responsibility on supervisors and their performance management skills. Maintaining performance levels and meeting improvement goals in a teleworking environment requires excellent supervisory skills for-

  • planning the work
  • setting expectations
  • monitoring performance
  • recognizing employees for their performance

Plan the Work

In any work situation, planning work is the first step to managing performance. Supervisors and employees should clearly define what the employee is to accomplish. Of course, employee assignments must align with and support organizational goals. Planning for successful results requires supervisors to first determine work unit goals and objectives, and then determine, with their employees, employee assignments and accomplishments that support those goals. Supervisors and employees can use employee performance plans as the tools to establish required accomplishments.

Set Expectations

Not only do employees need to know what they are supposed to do, they need to know how well they are supposed to do it. Supervisors must communicate performance standards clearly. Supervisors can use the standards written in employee performance plans to communicate expectations, but they also should reinforce and explain these by communicating verbally and often. If employees know what they are supposed to do, and how well they are supposed to do it, the supervisor has set the stage for successful performance - whether the employee works inside or outside the office.

Monitor Performance

Monitoring performance includes measuring performance and providing feedback. In a teleworking situation (as in any work situation), measuring employee results rather than their activities is more efficient and effective. Quantity, quality, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness are four general measures for supervisors to review. Once supervisors and employees establish performance measures and targets in performance standards, communicating progress on meeting those measures and targets should be frequent. Employees need feedback on their performance in order to maintain good performance and to improve overall. In addition, employees need to keep supervisors informed about work progress. Good communication between supervisors and employees is essential for successfully completing work and is especially necessary in a teleworking environment.

Recognize Performance

Particularly in situations where teleworking employees work off-site most of the time, supervisors need to make additional efforts so these employees still feel they are part of the office. Maintaining good communications is one important way to do this. Another way is to ensure that supervisors recognize the good performance of these teleworkers; supervisors should not let teleworkers feel as if their performance doesn't matter or that no one ever notices their achievements. All employees want to feel that their work is appreciated. Recognition should always be part of the supervisor's performance management tool bag.

Clearly, teleworking puts the spotlight on a supervisor's performance management skills. Poor performance management can lead to poor work results in any setting, but especially in a teleworking environment. Visit the OPM website for more information.

Available Resources

The telework website,, provides one-stop shopping on Federal telework policies. This website, managed by OPM and the General Services Administration, provides access to guidance and additional information on teleworking initiatives and activities.

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