One problem with a business that hires telecommuter is that telecommuters are harder to keep motivated and working. It’s harder to tell if someone is working and an instant message isn’t as big of a motivator as the boss coming by and giving you a pat on the shoulder. To be clear, I’m not one of those kind of bosses to stand over your shoulder and watch you work. If you have nothing to do, hey go kick back. If you aren’t in the mood to program and want to take a couple of days of rest, please do it. If you work in crunch, 7 days a week, for 3 months and want to take a week or even two to play games you deserve it (I did this myself at my first job). What I do want to avoid is the guy who get paid on Friday so routinely works on Thursday and Friday and no other days. Or the guy who works one month out of a 9 month project (this also happened at my first job).

You can avoid much of this problem with due diligence. I believe that bosses should stop by the worker’s desk every day and ask “How are things coming along? Are there any questions I can answer? Any problems I can help you solve?” Speaking from personal experience, this is not seen as micromanagement but as a lead helping you do your job.

You can also avoid the problem by hiring self-motivated people to begin with. The problem I described is far less prevalent among educated professionals but all people need a boost from time to time to keep them going in the right direction.

My business owner friend suggested using performance based bonuses every paycheck. Paying either weekly or bi-weekly, you monitor the employees performance on a day to day basis. Based on their performance, quality, and drive that day you give them some kind of rating. When it’s time to pay, you say something like “You hit these three goals and wowed me on this feature. I’m going to throw in a bonus of X dollars on top of your paycheck.” The important thing is not to do this so often that the employee takes it for granted (at which point it’s a negative not to give a bonus rather than a positive to give one). It’s also important to avoid the appearance of unfairness or favoritism. So it should be clearly cause and effect. “I scheduled you to do X in 5 days, you did it in 3 days. That’s really impressive. I’m going to throw in a bonus in your next paycheck. While I won’t give you a bonus every time you beat a deadline, I am this time and as long as you work this hard the rewards will keep coming.”

Similarly, my friend suggested starting new employees at a slightly lower pay for X months. The problem with most people is that their enthusiasm wanes after a month. I’ve seen this when I managed reviewers who do a great job on their first review, an OK job on their second, and simply not do the third. A new hire costs you a lot more than an existing hire because of training. So it’s fair that they make less at first and fair that they make more after they have proven they can work over the long haul. It’s a way to keep costs down from bad hires as well as is an incentive to work harder. It’s similar to a regular rate of promotion, except it’s performance based and shouldn’t be expected.

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