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So, you’ve just been offered what seems like a dream telecommuting role. Congratulations! But before you sign on the dotted line, now’s a good time to make sure that both you and your potential future employer are clear about the role and your work process.

So, you’ve just been offered what seems like a dream telecommuting role. Congratulations! But before you sign on the dotted line, now’s a good time to make sure that both you and your potential employer are clear about the role, your responsibilities and your work process. While some employers have defined telecommuting policies in place and have management who are used to working with remote staff, many do not.

Getting answers to these questions before you agree to take the job will not only clarify the role, but could also help your potential employer to produce its own telecommuting policy:

  1. What equipment will be provided? Will equipment-related expenses be reimbursed? Your employer should be kitting you out with the tools that you need to do your job. However, it’s worth checking what equipment will actually be provided, as sometimes what an employer thinks you’ll need and what you think you’ll need won’t align. Additionally, if you don’t already have a well-equipped home office (including office furniture, like a good desk and chair, and a reliable, fast Internet connection), will your employer help with those expenses? What budget is available?
  2. How will your performance be measured? When you’re not coming into the office every day, your manager won’t be able to see that you’re hard at work. So what metrics will the company use to assess your performance? Will there be a regular review of these metrics? It’s a good idea to make sure that you’re clear on these before taking the job. If your potential employer hasn’t already determined which metrics will be used to measure your performance, Dawn provided some good suggestions here.
  3. How will you communicate and collaborate with your colleagues and manager? Communication and collaboration is one of the biggest challenges in working remotely. Does the company have a corporate IM system? Use messageboards or IRC? Does it use a collaboration tool like SharePoint or Socialtext? A web conferencing tool like WebEx or Dimdim? Will there be daily check-ins with you manager? How often does the team meet? The answer to this question will give you a good idea of how well prepared the company is for working with remote staff. It’s quite possible that in companies that don’t already have telecommuting staff that the answer to this question could be, “email and telephone.” In which case, you might like to suggest that the company investigates some of the tools mentioned above — many of them are available for fairly low (or even zero) cost.
  4. How often will you be expected to travel to the office? Your definition of what “telecommuting” actually means might differ quite substantially from your potential employer’s. It’s best to be absolutely clear on the expectation of the amount of time you are expected to spend in the office upfront, as even the requirement to spend a few days per month in the company office could get arduous for very long-distance telecommuters.
  5. Can I have this in writing? If the answers given to the above questions aren’t already answered in a defined telecommuting policy, it’s a good idea to get them recorded in writing, even if that’s just an email. That way, should a difference of opinion crop up once you start the job,  you’ll have a record of everything that you agreed to.

What questions do you ask before taking a telecommuting job?

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Photo by Flickr user mccun934, licensed under CC 2.0

By Simon Mackie

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  1. In forming a distributed team, attitude is everything. In addition to the very important questions above, you should be doing your best to get a feel for the team’s attitude towards telework. Are they permitting you to telecommute, perhaps grudgingly, in order to attract better or cheaper talent? Or are they fully committed to remote work? Are some team members resentful of or dubious about of the remote employees? No amount of agreements on paper can substitute for an employer which has enthusiastically embraced workshifting and wants their remote workers to succeed.

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  2. [...] Simon Mackie, over at WebWorkerDaily.com brings up a great point about outfitting your home office. He says: . . . it’s worth checking what equipment will actually be provided, as sometimes what an employer thinks you’ll need and what you think you’ll need won’t align. Additionally, if you don’t already have a well-equipped home office (including office furniture, like a good desk and chair, and a reliable, fast Internet connection), will your employer help with those expenses? What budget is available? 5 Questions to Ask Before Taking that Telecommuting Job [...]

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  3. One other thing I’ve found helpful is to negotiate some sort of professional development and training as part of the arrangement. It helps keep your own skills honed, and the company makes a financial investment in you… increasing your value two ways.

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