Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. The ideal candidate must be mature within the organization, reliable and an independent worker. He or she must be well-organized and self-motivated. Managers of telecommuters must be able to trust their employees, be good communicators in a variety of media, and value results rather than being just a timekeeper.
To be successful, a telecommuting policy must be well planned. If your organization is considering a telecommuting option, ask yourselves these key questions:
- Does telecommuting fit in our business strategy? Above all, instituting a work option like telecommuting has to make sense for your business.
- Are there tasks, and therefore positions, that could be accomplished outside of the workplace? Be sure to look at job responsibilities first, not the individual. Many office jobs with high reliance on computers, and little need for face-to-face customer contact, can be well-suited for telecommuting.
- Could our organization benefit from extended customer service hours? Some remote workers may enjoy working earlier or later than standard hours, and this could translate into greater service coverage for your clients.
- Could telecommuting save us money in terms of reducing or redesigning office space? Keep in mind that some of the cost savings would be negated by added costs in providing workers with equipment such as high-speed internet connection, phones, desktop or laptop computers and printers with fax/scanner capabilities.
- Would a telecommuting option increase employee retention, and even serve as a recruiting tool? There is evidence that employees who telecommute reduce their commuting hours and enjoy more time with their families.
Once you’ve decided to institute some sort of telecommuting option, it’s essential to lay the groundwork by having clear, firm policies and procedures. These documents should spell out the parameters around the positions eligible for telecommuting, as well as any company-specific requirements. Be sure they include information on:
- How an employee or manager can request a telecommuting position
- Employee eligibility standards (time in company, performance conditions)
- Any hardware requirements
- Home office requirements including security, privacy and having a dedicated work area
- What the company will pay for, including phone expenses and supplies
- Time recordkeeping, especially for non-exempt employees
- Communication requirements such as emails, calls, periodic meetings, project log
- Any core business hours requirement
- Formal Telecommuting Work Agreement, to be signed by the employee, manager and Human Resources
- Trial period expectations
- Detailed job descriptions
It’s a good idea to survey periodically your telecommuting population in terms of job effectiveness and viability. Take some time to canvas both employees who telecommute and their managers. These individuals can provide real-life examples of how their situations are working for them, as well as suggest improvements. It’s also a good idea to revisit the policies and procedures governing these arrangements to keep them current and workable.
Telecommuting can be a win-win situation for both employer and employee, but it takes a lot of careful planning and communications. You can benefit from both increased job effectiveness and employee satisfaction if it’s the right fit for your organization. If you haven’t yet explored it, consider how telecommuting can enhance your business as well as increase employee retention and recruiting.