Did you read about Yahoo scrapping their work from home policy? It turns out that working from home had become decidedly unproductive for the company. But in the modern working environment it's becoming more and more common for employees to work from home (if not for the whole week, certainly an odd Friday here and there!). So how can you manage a workforce that is geographically dispersed and/or working from home?
Communication is key when people want to work from home. Regular phone calls, Skype calls, emails and texts are par for the course and should be encouraged. If you've not heard from your team member of colleague all day, chances are they've not done much other than catch up on their TV programs. If one of your team members or colleagues is working from home be sure to give him/her a call at random points in the day to check if they need any help and/or on the status of their deliverables. Don't treat working from home like a holiday.
This is a simple trick that works wonders: set up a meeting at 09:00 and at 16:30 (i.e. a short meeting at the start and end of the day for all employees working from home). Use the morning meeting to set the agenda for the day and outline expectations for deliverables. Use the end of the day meeting to check back on what's been accomplished by your team. This gives employees no excuses to slack off and ensures that everyone is working towards the correct objective. The meetings need be no longer than 10 minutes, but try to give everyone a chance to talk and commit to their tasks.
Google Hangouts is a great tool for sharing and communicating amongst remote teams. Having people show up on camera is a good way to make sure they're not lazing around in their pajamas until 4 o'clock. It also engages employees and allows them to feel part of the team. Combine this step with the previous step and you're onto a winner!
Even completely remote teams need to get together at some point. People by their very nature thrive on physical interaction and this just can't be replicated in a virtual environment. Maybe it's once a week, or once every two weeks, or even once a month - but set one day aside for the whole team to get together. This can even be a social occasion like after-work drinks. But for staff that work from home, it's critical to have one day where you all get together in the same location.
For employees who work from home, a good tactic can be to encourage pair working. This is where you and your partner review each others work after it's completed and provide verbal feedback in a relaxed setting. When working from home this encourages people not to let their partner down and also promotes communication and teamwork. You can switch the pairs around periodically to get even more benefit.