In a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald Dr. Yvette Blount, from the Macquarie University faculty of business and economics, was quoted as saying “The question is how do we manage performance and productivity. How do we address that when the employee is invisible and they are not front of mind?” To me this quote indicates part of the problem.
Virtual does not equal invisible
If you see your workers as being “invisible” and forget about them then indeed you are not going to be managing them very well. Research has found that virtual or teleworkers are often some of the most productive workers a company may have. No worker in a virtual environment should go without having some way to measure their productivity. Daily output, time to completion, and numbers of interactions are all potential measures of a virtual worker’s productivity.
It is poor management that allows a virtual worker to sit and be unproductive. Dr. Blount says that managers struggle with measures for virtual workers. My question is “how do you measure them in the office?” If you are measuring productivity by attendance then you are focused on the wrong thing. The same measures of productivity in the office can be applied to virtual workers as well.
Change of attitude
I fell the biggest struggle may be the attitude of “invisibility” that managers and some workers may have. Invisible may mean no accountability and for some people no accountability means not having to do anything. To be effective at managing virtual employees the first requirement is not to consider them “invisible.” Then establish measures of productivity appropriate to their situation.