Alternative work arrangements are growing in popularity — and not just because employees like the flexibility they offer. Implementing a strong telecommuting program helps employers attract first-rate professionals, boost retention efforts and increase overall productivity due to fewer interruptions, greater job satisfaction and the lack of a commute.
But a successful off-site work policy requires careful planning and implementation. Before you allow your employees to work remotely, consider these six keys of a strong telecommuting program.
1. Contact your legal experts
Offering employees the chance to work from home seems simple enough, but it can be a legal minefield. Topics to consider include complications with workers' compensation matters and state overtime regulations, as well as the degree of individual responsibility for company property. Legal counsel should review any telecommuting programs to make sure the company stays in compliance with employment laws.
2. Let managers have their say
Supervisors in your group should play a role in designing the specifics of a telecommuting program. This involves more than providing equipment or determining whether staff can use personal smartphones and other devices to access the network. Managers know best how certain job functions will change if people telecommute, and they can provide valuable input on customizing the program for their teams.
3. Know what you want
Clear employee eligibility guidelines are essential to avoid misunderstandings or claims of favoritism about who can telecommute. When developing or refining a telecommuting program, managers should ask a number of questions to help determine its specifics. For example:
- Can the job be performed remotely with little disruption to existing standards and deadlines?
- Which roles are best suited for independent work?
- What experience level is required for an employee to be considered for a work-from-home option?
- How many days per week can people in certain jobs telecommute? Will this vary depending on seniority or other standards?
4. Stick to the rules
Managing telecommuters can be tricky. If you have close relationships with your employees, you may find it hard not to bend the rules of your telecommuting policy. Maybe an outstanding team member wants to work from home, but her job is not ideal for telecommuting. As tempting as it may be to make an exception for a strong contributor, stick to the rules to maintain consistency and avoid any displays of favoritism.
5. Be social
Don't let remote workers become "out of sight, out of mind" as you go about daily work activities. Set a policy for using Skype or FaceTime to bring telecommuting staff into key meetings. Invite them to come into the office when celebrating successes or holding special events. Make an extra effort to keep those who work from home in the loop on company and department news, especially if they spend a significant amount of time off-site.
6. Be fair to on-site employees
A final key to a successful telecommuting program is making sure those who work on-site are treated equitably. It can feel like a bum deal to be the employee left to handle problems that can't be performed remotely by telecommuting coworkers. Remember that it's not the job of those who work at the office to cover for those who don't. Make sure those allowed to telecommute can do their full jobs off-site instead of disproportionately relying on others.
Be sure to update your telecommuting policy periodically. Over time, you may find that additional groups of employees can be offered this work option or that your guidelines need modification. Also, make sure that your policies continue to be logically keyed to the nature and the demands of your business.