From both a retention and recruiting perspective, telecommuting programs make good business sense.

Not only can they provide organisations with a recruiting and retention advantage, but they are also quickly becoming a business necessity.

In a time when thousands of workers who have rarely worked remotely find themselves logging on from home, companies without a formal telecommuting program may be wondering how they can launch one.

Here are a few key tips:

1. Get in touch with your legal experts

Before you begin offering employees the chance to work from home, make sure your telecommuting program won’t become a legal minefield. Legal counsel should review any telecommuting programs to make sure the company stays in compliance with employment laws.

Issues to consider include complications with workers’ compensation matters and state overtime regulations, as well as the matter of individual responsibility for company property used off-site.

2. Ask managers to share feedback

While general approval of a telecommuting plan for your company must come from business owners or upper management, individual supervisors should be invited to play a role in designing the specifics.

Managers know which job functions are most suitable for telecommuting, and therefore, are in the best position to customise the program for their teams.

Questions they might consider when evaluating roles include:

  • Is this position really suited to independent work?
  • Does the job require a lot of face time that videoconferencing alone can’t support effectively?
  • And what impact, if any, would there be on our teamwork, and even our organisational culture, if several employees telecommuted regularly?

3.  Invest in the right technology

At the heart of successful telecommuting programs, you’ll find workers using the latest technology tools to their advantage. Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype for Business are some of the platforms that telecommuters can use to keep in touch throughout the day. And file-hosting services like Dropbox, Google Drive or an in-house system can support their collaboration and information sharing in real time.

4. Set equal standards for remote work options

Managing telecommuters can be tricky. Telecommuting employees need to feel confident that their manager believes they will work as hard as they would in a regular office, including keeping similar hours and maintaining productivity.

When it comes to quality and deliverables, there should be no difference between the work an employee produces at your office or while they’re telecommuting.

So, set equal standards for on-site and off-site professionals in areas such as client service, office hours, and response times for emails and phone calls. You also might want to set “core hours” when all employees are required to be accessible.

Make sure to help telecommuters and other remote employees feel like they’re part of the team. Make an extra effort to keep telecommuters in the loop on company and department news.

Also, bringing your whole staff together can help to build camaraderie and team spirit. Try scheduling at least one big videoconference on a quarterly basis using a group-friendly platform.