Remote Workers

The advantages and disadvantages of employing remote workers are stark. They don't take up office space, drink your coffee, or eat up your overheads, but because you can't see them, you don't always know what they're up to. Just because a remote employee is not physically in the building doesn't mean you shouldn't maintain regular contact. Some managers believe that if employees are right under their nose it's only the smell and proximity of their own perspiration that keeps them working. That might have been the case with forced labor but it rarely applies to professional programmers. If you don't trust your telecommuters, you can always install a Web cam.

Careful selection is required for people working remotely both in temperament and maturity, as well of the type of tasks that they are given. Remote working is ideally suited for self-motivated, responsible, and highly competent individuals. Age doesn't matter. Some remote workers start coding for major firms while still in their teens.

It is very important that off-site workers have a quiet, dedicated space to work from. They must be guaranteed periods of uninterrupted time from wives, pets, and children. In my experience remote workers normally start earlier and stop later than their 9 to 5 office-bound peers. Because they typically work in quieter surroundings, they are sometimes better able to concentrate and can produce prolific and high-quality code.

Just because they aren't joined at the hip doesn't mean they can't be part of the team. Talk to them daily, and have them come to regular main office meetings (once a month). To function well, remote workers need to be considered with the same attention that you give your in-house staff.

Make sure you are well informed of rules covering insurance for off-site workers. You could be liable if they have an accident while working.

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