• Tele-Worker — or Tele-Slacker?

    Posted on 10.20.2014

    tele workerBefore you begin a telecommuting program, ask your management team three questions:

    1) Does the job lend itself to a telecommuting arrangement?
    Is your company using a secure cloud system that the worker can log into easily?
    Does this particular position lend itself to attending meetings via Skype, Go To Meeting or telephone?
    2) Is the employee’s home worksite conducive to work?
    Is there proper electronic equipment, square footage, lighting, desk space available?
    Is the workspace free of distractions (children, spouse, pets, etc)?
    3) Is this particular employee fit to telecommute?
    Can s/he work independently? Is the quality of his work satisfactory? Is she reliable
    and responsible? Is he motivated, even when the supervisor isn’t nearby? Has she demonstrated personal integrity?

    tele slackerTelecommuting works with good, reliable employees, but it can be a disaster with lazy, incompetent, or dishonest ones. If the latter have not quite been fired yet (and, if not, you ought to be working on it), do NOT let them work from home.

    A recent Washington Post article about an internal investigation of the acclaimed Telework Program instituted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Four whistle-blowers reported that patent examiners (the people who recommend whether your invention ought to have legal protection or not) were goofing off and totally getting away with it! The USPTO conducted an investigation* and found that many examiners were committing time fraud. This, in an agency that has a backlog of 600,000 patent applications and a five-year estimated waiting period.

    The moral of the story: Don’t let your marginal employees telecommute. But how can you make sure that even the average and above-average telecommuters are really working when they say they are? Here are some things to watch out for, and some suggested solutions.

    Time Fraud.
    When you call or send your employee an email, how long does it normally take for the employee to respond? Is the employee willing to share her cell phone number with you? If the employee has to leave in the middle of the work day are you notified in advance, with an estimated time of return? It might also be a good idea to require the examiners to enter time each day with detailed descriptions of what they did. (It’s harder to cheat when you have to affirmatively lie to do it.)

    End-loading/procrastination.
    This is waiting until the last possible minute to get your work done before the deadline, and then dumping it all on the supervisor at once. It allows the teleslacker to take the entire production period off except for the very end.

    In the case of the USPTO, the patent examiners had quarterly production quotas. Their supervisors said that some examiners completed reviews at rates of 500 percent or even 1,000 percent in the last two weeks of the quarter (which shows that they were capable of getting the work done
    when they had to).

    Mortgaging Work.
    This is beating the deadline by turning in sloppy work, and then fixing it later (after the work has already been counted toward meeting the quota).
    Easy solution: Incomplete or sloppy work will not be counted in the employee’s quota and, unless there is a really good excuse, will also result in progressive discipline. The shorter deadlines discussed above ought to help with mortgaging, too.

    Did you notice how the solutions do not require any special technology or systems upgrades? All they require is low-tech attentive management and a firm-but-fair hand.

    As always, if you’d like help with your current or future Telemarketing Plan, please call the HR experts at Achilles Group at 281-469-1800. We look forward to helping you!

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