Telecommuting keeps growing, as an estimated 34 million U.S. employees now work remotely at least once a month.

But it can be a challenge for managers to ensure that off-site employees stay productive. Here are four techniques that can help:

  • Insist your off-siters stay connected, and not just with computer hookups. Require that nearby employees come into the office at least once a week, and distant ones monthly. Invite them to all company events.
  • Develop specific work plans and deadlines. Having action plans – and expectations – helps hold off-siters accountable for results, just as if they were in an office down the hall.
  • Train off-siters in-house. When possible, limit telecommuting arrangements to those who have already learned your company’s culture, your management style, work ethic and norms. They’ll be more self-motivated, adaptable and productive than someone who didn’t have the same training.
  • Stay in touch personally. No one likes to be kept on a short leash. But try to stay in touch with your off-site reports in person, at least weekly. Use the phone, find a good reason to stop by, or go out to lunch once in a while. Megabytes of e-mail correspondence are a poor substitute for face to face communication with off-site team members.

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