In that spirit, here is my list of the top 3 challenges you need to consider when planning a telecommuting program, or hiring new remote employees who have no previous experience working in the office, down the hall from you, co-workers, and the IT guy.
Create a remote-friendly training plan. Even if your usual on-boarding process is largely self-guided, ask any recent hires and, if they're honest, they'll tell you that they spend a lot of time learning from others in the cubicle or office next door. There might even be someone in the office who serves as an informal peer mentor. So it only makes sense that folks working from home will need something similar; designate someone on your team as an official peer mentor and enable them to chat via phone or instant messaging to help your new remote workers get up to speed.
Don't neglect them. The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" may not really be true in practice, but it can certainly feel that way to remote workers who aren't physically in the room at staff meetings and chatting with co-workers between projects. Certainly, you won't have the same opportunity to get to know them. The mitigation? Make it crystal clear that evaluations and advancement are performance based, and ensure you have objective processes in place to ensure that happens -- and that it's well documented. Between formal evaluations, be sure that you (or other managers) communicate frequently and note achievements and accomplishments along the way.
Watch out for compatibility issues. Do you issue computer hardware to remote workers? Probably not -- most of the time, telecommuters provide their own PC. To make sure compatibility issues don't become critical blockers to getting work done, be sure you document hardware and software guidelines, so everyone knows what is required to get the job done.
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