Yes, I’m overstating this a bit. But, in the spirit of spring break, I thought I would highlight a couple of my favorite stories of teleworkers doing crazy things:
- A friend relayed the story of one of his teleworkers who decided to spend a day at the beach when he should have been working. The employee’s relaxing day was reflected in his hourly Facebook status updates. Too bad he forgot his boss was on his friends list.
- One teleworker decided to combine work with pleasure by visiting New Orleans, working out of his hotel room by day and enjoying the city by night. Unfortunately, he had bad timing – his working vacation began just days before Hurricane Katrina hit. His employer was slightly upset when he finally contacted the company after several days to explain why he had been hard to reach.
- A West Coast lawyer recounted a story of a teleworker that was actually working for 2 companies at once, taking advantage of both companies’ teleworking policies.
Why would I want to highlight incidences where teleworkers abuse the system and make bonehead mistakes? First, it happens. Thankfully, it’s a very small minority that exhibit this type of behavior. The vast majority of teleworkers have integrity, work hard, are very productive, and are good employees. I have witnessed far worse things working in a traditional office environment.
Second, all of these blunders are avoidable, and you, the leader, can help prevent this behavior. It all boils down to setting the right expectations. Do your employees know and fully understand your organization’s telework policy? More importantly, do they know and understand your expectations? What do’s and don’ts should you cover with them? Assume nothing is obvious. Put it in writing. Be specific. Periodically review expectations and how the employee is measuring up (note: ‘periodically’ does not just refer to the employee’s annual performance review).
Employees will make mistakes, and at times, do some outlandish things. However, there is no need to micromanage or pull the plug on teleworking. Examples like the ones above don’t ever have to come from your team. If you set the right expectations and frequently review performance, you won’t have to worry.