Offering the flexibility of telecommuting has become an important tool to improve employee satisfaction and productivity. Implemented properly, it can help you retain your best workers and improve service for your customers. However, when it’s put in place without careful planning and clear expectations, telecommuting potentially creates more problems than benefits. If you are considering allowing employees to work remotely, establish clear guidelines and policies before letting the first worker login from home.
Start With a Trial Period
In the beginning, be clear that any remote work arrangements will be on temporary basis until they have been determined successful. Thoroughly explain to both employees and managers about the criteria that will be used to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Let everyone know that adjustments may be made after the trial period ends. Use this time to work out any kinks and convert any reluctant managers.
Find the Best Candidates
Not every job can be done off-site. Production workers need to be on the line, and some people prefer the social setting of an office. Telecommuting can be a useful tool for providing reasonable accommodation to workers facing a permanent or temporary disability. It’s a good idea to make it available as an option, not a requirement.
Equipment and Security
Policies should cover equipment, including who will provide the computer, Internet access and any other needs. If the company provides the equipment, spell out approved uses, and clearly state the company’s stance on the personal use of a laptop during non-business time.
One potential drawback to employees working off-site is security. Work with your IT department to make sure there are adequate safeguards in place for workers who access company servers remotely. Require anti-virus software to be installed and maintained on laptops and home computers that will be used for work. Company policy should also address paper files that contain sensitive or proprietary information. You may decide such files should never be removed from the office. If so, make sure your written policies spell that out clearly.
Company telecommuting policies should establish clear communication requirements. You may want to include expectations for time spent in the office. Unless an employee is out of the area or on special accommodation status, it is reasonable to require employees to come into the office one or more days per week. For the sake of managers and coworkers, it is often helpful to have an established schedule so everyone knows what to expect. If client meetings are part of your business, you may need a policy to address those scheduled for an employee’s off-site work day.
It is a good idea to explore other ways to keep clear communication channels open between all staff. Consider technologies such as Skype that allow for visual communication and instant messaging that allows for easier and less formal interactions than emails.
Clear Expectations and Consequences
While job descriptions and requirements are always important, they are especially critical for workers that telecommute. Multiple studies have shown that people who work remotely have high productivity and job satisfaction. To be productive, they need to clearly understand what their tasks and duties are. Additionally, it is important to have consequences spelled out if an employee is not meeting deadlines or violates a security policy. Getting people to understand the consequences of not adhering to company requirements during the trial phase helps set the stage for a successful program.
Be sure managers also understand the expectations, and learn ways to gauge employee performance. Some in leadership roles may have to adjust their communication and evaluation styles to engage with remote employees. Company telecommuting policies help managers do their jobs.
Employers can reap many benefits from implementing a telecommuting option for appropriate workers. With some thoughtful effort put into creating sound policies and a sufficient trial period to test and adjust them, you can create a work option that retains valuable employees and improves performance.
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