Telecommuting: Why Some Companies Succeed … And Others Don’t Premium

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Telecommuting is said to improve employee productivity by 20 to 30 percent, reduce costs for the company, and even have a positive impact on the environment. But a very different reality can lie hidden behind these received ideas: failure is always lurking around the corner, waiting for leaders who heedlessly follow the trend without first identifying the right strategy for their organization.

For Cisco, Deloitte and Intel, uncontested champions of telecommuting, working from home is not an end in itself, but a way to increase flexibility and, in the end, better serve customers.

According to Caroline Jessen, HR director of Cisco France, telecommuting is an organizational imperative: In a group where 43 percent of employees are managed by someone who is located in another country, the most up-to-date telecommuting strategies, processes, and technologies are a necessity.

Three key principles for effective telecommuting

    1. Communicate: develop channels for open communication, if necessary by creating Web 2.0 tools that allow managers and teams to address questions and concerns to executives and receive quick responses to their problems when they arise.
    2. Test: create simulations in the form of missions that require minimal supervision to gauge initiatives, evaluate processes, and observe results in order to minimize risks (such as a drop in collaboration).
    3. Find allies and neutralize expected sources of resistance: draw on managers who are already committed to the cause to lead the new telecommuting teams. Once the program is successfully established, skeptics will understand that greater flexibility is not synonymous with lower quality or productivity.
        All this should be done in an environment that puts a heavy emphasis on autonomy and responsibility. Managers need to focus on a high level of engagement rather than obedience and conformity—in other words, telecommuting works best alongside a solid culture of trust.

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Telecommuting: Why Some Companies Succeed … And Others Don’t

Business Digest no. 218, July-August 2011.
A synthesis of several publications, accompanied by an interview with Caroline Jessen, DRH, Cisco France, June 2011.