Telecommuting is a hot topic around many water coolers and a popular office perk, particularly for enticing young professionals. But while it may be commonplace in a number of companies, deciding if it is right for your team takes careful consideration. If you do choose to enable telecommuting, a few simple policies can make the process smoother.
Step 1: Assess your positions
When it comes to workplace perks, the flexibility of working from home is at the top of the list for millennials and new grads alike. For employers, allowing employees to telecommute can also reduce your overhead costs and result in a more efficient workforce. Not only will employees working from home skip the daily commute and accompanying traffic delays, but they can focus less on idle chit chat and more on accomplishing their tasks.
From a financial perspective, telecommuting works because you can maintain a smaller office and less equipment. If there’s no room in the budget for a raise, it can be an added bonus that saves employees the cost of commuting. You may even find it’s easier to manage a remote workforce when there’s a smaller team in the office.
No matter how enticing a perk, some operations require employees to collaborate from a central location. If this is your business type, the option still isn’t entirely off the table for all employees. You’ll want to consider if a store manager can do monthly reports from a computer at home. Every company that allows telecommuting has some exceptions or exclusions — a fair policy should apply to a position, not an employee. For example, Level 2 Marketing Assistants may work from home part-time but the IT department only works in-house.
Keep in mind that telecommuting isn’t all or nothing. It is often implemented as a portion of work hours: once or twice a week or comprising a percentage of a pay period.
Action Step: Begin by identifying the positions that would not benefit from telecommuting and the projects that must be done in office.
Step 2: Create a plan for risk management
While telecommuting sounds great, there are some risks to look out for when introducing it to your team. As mentioned, it might produce some inequality and therefore cause tension in the office. Sharing this new policy with the whole company should be done with a sensitive touch.
Telecommuting employees will have less oversight, which might encourage odd working hours, cutting corners or slacking off. And then there’s the risk of having your company information out of your control. Make sure all employees have signed contracts that cover noncompete clauses, confidentiality and moonlighting (i.e. running their own business while on your clock) before working from home. You’ll also want to spot check by calling during work hours, observing what time of day (or night) emails are sent and reviewing work carefully.
Action Step: Make a list of any and all concerns that you have about telecommuting employees, and create an action plan to manage them during a trial run. Remember, if you’re not convinced it’ll be a good move then the trial can end.
Step 3: Try a Trial Run
For an accurate assessment without a full commitment, do a trial run on a limited basis with a couple of employees for a few weeks. During this time you’ll want to monitor any changes in their output, how the whole team communicates and the influence on company culture.
Trial runs are best conducted with employees who do not require proprietary software to do their jobs and have either a home computer that can be used temporarily or a work-issued laptop.
You probably don’t want to enable telecommuting for hourly employees without time-tracking software. While one of the biggest perks of working from home is flexibility, making sure the work gets completed in the hours reported is critical for your budget and peace of mind.
Action Step: Consider which employees could participate in a 2-week trial run. How you choose these employees may include job responsibilities, those who have the hardware to work remotely or those who you’d like to provide telecommuting as a perk.
Telecommuting is a perk, not a right. If you’ve grown a business from a home-based location, it might be harder to justify requiring your team to stay in the office while you or other high-level employees work from the comfort of home. Just like bonuses or vacation time, telecommuting can be a perk awarded to certain positions with tenure. It takes an incredible amount of trust and shouldn’t be handled lightly. If telecommuting can be managed and improve the morale of your team while increasing productivity, then it’s worth pursuing. At the end of the day, your business is the primary concern.