With nearly half of all federal government employees now eligible to telework, what can managers do to be most effective in leading their teams -- regardless of location?
During a recent panel discussion at Excellence in Government 2014, Government Executive’s Frank Konkel moderated a session with federal telework gurus Malena Brookshire, Deputy Performance Information Officer at the SEC, Mika Cross, HR strategy specialist at OPM, and Cindy Auten, General Manager at Mobile Work Exchange, covering a wide range of telework management topics.
The team of experts offered the following tips for managers and employees who work remotely:
1. Leverage new technologies to maximize collaboration and communication
Federal managers can continue to stay connected with their teams by taking advantage of recent technological advances. “Workplace collaboration has evolved so much in the past three to five years compared to ten years ago, with tools like Adobe LiveCycle, WebEx, and Google Hangouts [becoming] . . . mainstream,” said Auten. “Technology is really paving a road for telework and mobile workplaces.”
2. Trust your employees
“Telework and mobility can be scary because it tends to unveil performance issues you probably already had to begin with. It’s the responsibility of the employee to work effectively, be responsible, and be available, just as they would if they were in the office -- telework shouldn’t change those expectations,” Cross pointed out.
Managers should also watch out for efficiency. “Productivity isn’t always about the length of time, but what you are doing when you are connected and working,” said Brookshire, who leads a remote team at the SEC. “It’s all about trust: employees should be aware that their manager is entrusting them to be productive, and managers should learn to trust that employees are accomplishing what they say they will.”
3. Prioritize facetime whenever possible
“Telework can be especially effective for people who are most productive at home, but you tend to not collaborate as much,” said Auten. “When you do go into the office, whether that is one day a week or one day per pay period, make a point to use that opportunity to collaborate and meet up with your team.”
4. When it comes to being a good manager, location shouldn’t matter
According to the panelists, being a successful telework manager is rooted in the same fundamentals as an in-office manager: “All managers, telework or not, should learn how to set team protocols, and ensure that communication is open on their teams, regardless of location,” said Cross.
“When you look at ‘Top 10’ lists on how to be a manager, the ‘where’ factor isn’t up there -- it’s all about communication, understanding, and setting expectations,” Auten added.
For more from 2014 Excellence in Government, check out GBC’s EIG2014 recap series.