What De/Motivates a Teleworker
Author: Ilinca Stroe
An article in a recent issue of Cariere magazine (XV:250/September 2018, page 6) informs us that “at least 4 days a month Romanian employees work from outside their office”; almost 50% of them choose to work from home, while 20% prefer working from cafés or business lounges.
The phenomenon is called “teleworking” (where the prefix “tele-“ indicates that the work is done at a distance by means of electronic communication), and appeared in the USA at the end of the ‘80s, gaining ground as telecommunications developed. Today in the world one in five employees teleworks frequently, with 10% doing it daily.
The great benefit of teleworking is, from the employer’s side, first of all economic: there is a significant cutdown on costs related to the rental, equipment and maintenance of office spaces. And from the employee’s perspective the great benefit is the flexible and optimised timetable: no time is wasted on going to the office, and the hours allocated for work can be, in principle, at any time convenient to the teleworker.
Still: the main risk implied by teleworking is that the teleworker feels “disconnected”, isolated, separated from the team. This is the reason why, in a study carried out by The Harvard Business Review last year, 52% of the 1,153 teleworkers interviewed think they are “left out” – which is, obviously, conducive to demotivation. Specifically, teleworkers end up feeling demotivated because of the following aspects:
- communication with the team is faulty or insufficient, especially when it comes to clarifying details which normally require face-to-face discussion, the misunderstanding or even conflict arising from such communication being frustrating
- the direct informal contact with the co-workers is missing, along with the fast, “on-the-go” corrections or adjustments it enables, and the delays resulting from that lack generate a feeling of being “left behind”
- the connection to the office dynamics is faulty, which can cause teleworkers to overlook or miss promotion opportunities, hence the feeling of stagnation, of reaching a plateau or coming to a dead end
To prevent teleworkers from getting demotivated, the specialised magazines and sites put forward a set of behaviours and actions. Adopting them, the teleworker’s direct manager or the HR officer in charge of teleworkers can maintain the kind of trust, bond and feeling of a shared goal which are so needed to motivate employees. Here are some of the suggestions:
- the manager has frequent direct contact (once a week/month) with the teleworker, either by face-to-face meetings or video calls, to maintain a feeling of belonging to the company culture as well as long-term commitment
- the manager asks about the teleworker’s workload and the status quo of their ongoing projects, listening attentively to what s/he is told and updating the teleworker about the office projects, so that the teleworker feels informed, involved and kept in the loop
- the manager is familiar with several means of telecommunication (phone, email, video calling, Skype, Slack, WhatsApp, etc.) and uses the one favoured by the teleworker, being available, whenever possible, during the time slots convenient to the teleworker
- the manager inquires about the working space and conditions of the teleworker, making available for them the necessary means to optimise their working space (for instance, by purchasing ergonomic chairs or re/decorating the place, etc.)
- the manager socialises with the teleworker, asking them about life outside the office, their family or hobbies, to strengthen his/her personal relationship of camaraderie with the teleworker and make them feel important for the team and the company
No matter how laborious or delicate it can be, given that each teleworker has her/his own profile and can consequently feel motivated by other factors than others, the task of finding the key to motivating a teleworker is worth every effort. And that’s because, as Forbes magazine and other sources assure us, teleworking is the way to work in the 21st century.