Managing Teleworkers


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What jobs are best suited for telework?

Telework may not be suited for every job, but it can be adapted to many. It is important to distinguish between telework jobs and telework job functions. Some jobs can be completely performed off-site.
The jobs that seem to show the most productive results from telework are information-based jobs. A survey conducted by MITE- Midwest Institute for Telework Education and the Humphrey Institute (2007) [add link to survey here ( found that telework opportunities existed in a wide number of sectors. The table below shows that while there was some variation between the types of work done by teleworkers between public and private employers, at least 10 different job functions were listed by respondents as being conducted by teleworkers.

Teleworker Job Function by Sector
Job Functions


(136 respondents)


(78 respondents)

  # % # %
Office tasks 39 29 28 36
Research and Analysis 39 29 18 23
Administrative 37 27 19 24
Customer Service 19 14 21 27
Technician, non-Supervisor 28 21 16 21
Programming 22 16 14 18
Claims review 17 13 4 5
Call Centers 5 4 5 6.4
Medical Transcription 5 4 4 5
Dispatch 2 1 2 3


The majority of jobs were provided to employees who already had work histories with the company. Most of the telework opportunities for employees who transitioned into telework were in the profession areas such as claims review, research and analysis, office or administrative positions, customer service.

In addition most job tasks within a job requiring an individual assignment as part of a team project are good situations for teleworkers. They are able to complete their part of the project away from the office, and then share their information with the rest of the group via technology. Telework may not be suited for every job, but it can be adapted to many. [top^]


Why can't I just let my employees decide amongst themselves who will telework?

Telework is not for everyone. It is a privilege, not a right – and it should be awarded because of employees’hard work, dedication and success. Thus, teleworker selection may be a formal managerial decision. When the manager goes through a formal selection process, three important things happen. First, the employees who really should be telework are selected. They fit the criteria set forth by the manager, and they are usually the employees who are self-motivated and goal-oriented. Second, a formal selection process shows employees that telework is not a way to "goof off". And third, by setting employee characteristic criteria and spelling out teleworker expectations, all employees recognize that the manager will look at the criteria before allowing teleworkers the option.
Telework may often occur occasionally and this is not unusual in today’s work world. In order to meet deadlines and better meet customer needs, it may be a temporary arrangement or used in emergency situations. [top^]


As a manager, is it practical for me to telework?

Absolutely. In fact, it is often more practical for managers to telecommute, and they become better managers because of it. The basic skills needed to successfully manage employees are communication, leadership, organizational skills and vision. As a teleworking manager, you must iron out any communication difficulties, be available when you say you will be available, and maintain consistent contact with employees. It will be important to have the faith and trust of the employees who work for you. If you return phone calls and e-mails promptly, answer employee questions satisfactorily, complete your tasks on time with quality, and generally lead by example, the telework arrangement should work out.

The main part of being a manager is being able to organize both employees and resources effectively. As a manager who teleworks, this is no different, and is in fact more important. You need to make sure your employees are being used to the best of their abilities. You have to be confident that employees can complete their tasks without your direct supervision and have faith in the instructions you, as their manager, give them. In addition, your employees need to be sure that the direction in which you are taking them will benefit them as much as it will benefit you and the company. They need to feel that as a teleworker, you are still the same manager you are when you're in the office.

Managers need to have a track record of good management skills, success in working in unfamiliar situations and strong leadership skills. [top^]


Should telework be a mandatory work arrangement for some jobs?

To be safe, the answer would have to be no. The best thing an employer can do is offer telework as a work arrangement. By making it mandatory, the employee may feel restricted; yet sometimes this may e done due to space issues. While there are some jobs that a great majority of the employees who work can telework, it still isn't for everyone. Some people just need the physical separation of work and home. And, making telework a mandatory part of a job may cause the employee to feel less important or a little unwanted. [top^]


As a manager, will my telework schedule make it hard for my co-workers and clients to work with me?

That is up to you. One of the most important factors to successful telework is accessibility. It would be best to make yourself available to coworkers and clients during regular business hours. Let them know they can call you on the phone or email and they can receive a response within a reasonable time. You must also make yourself available for emergency situations, via pager, IM, or another method. Your employees need to know that they can count on you in a difficult situation. Usually the best course of action is to dedicate a block of time during regular business hours each day to talk with clients and co-workers, answering questions and delegating responsibilities. [top^]


Sometimes I get the worst of both worlds. My co-workers and clients either call or page me in the evening or on the weekend when I'm not working, or they don't want to call me when I telework because I'm at home and therefore they think I'm not working. How can I correct this problem?

This situation reveals the importance of communication. You need to make it clear to everyone, co-workers and clients alike, exactly when you are available for business and when you should not be disturbed.
Dedicate a specific time during regular business hours to check voice mail and e-mail, return messages, and answer the phone. Let everyone know that you are available at this time. By having dedicated time available, you establish credibility with clients and colleagues. You also increase your productivity by concentrating on one thing at a time. [top^]


What role does telework play in office politics?

Ideally, telework plays a very limited role in office politics. Many people enjoy the separation telework provides between their job and the politics in the office. On the other hand, some people are afraid of becoming the subject of office politics because they telecommute. And, this could honestly pose a problem. As a manager, it is your duty to be the final word in this situation. You need to make it clear that the employees who telecommute are treated the same as other employees, are not afforded any special treatment, and should not be singled out as scapegoats. [top^]


Is the workload of the support staff increased because of teleworkers?

The answer varies greatly from one company to another, even one job to the next. It depends mostly on the job tasks that teleworkers cannot do that now must be passed on to the support staff. Depending on the job, this workload is sometimes substantially greater, and other times it is minimal. Resentments can arise because teleworkers may seem to be "exempt" from some work tasks simply because they don't work in the office anymore.
Decide how to streamline, eliminate, or disperse the duties that the teleworker cannot do off-site. This will make the support staff grateful, as well as a little more dedicated to their new duties. Another helpful way to ease the transition is to ensure that support staff feels appreciated. And they are a valued employee. [top^]


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