6 Keys to Implementing a Strong Telecommuting Program

The IT profession has always been on the forefront of alternative work arrangements, allowing people in IT jobs to tap into the latest technologies to work from home. Implementing a strong telecommuting program can be crucial for employers.

Why a telecommuting program?

Most employees in IT jobs want the option to telecommute, which has become more and more important to them. Many have claimed increased productivity due to fewer interruptions and the lack of commute.

How to make IT jobs work from home

Here are six keys to 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 when people work from home 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 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 firm's telecommuting program. This involves more than providing IT 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 any misunderstandings or claims of favoritism about who can telecommute. When developing or refining a telecommuting program, managers should ask a number of questions that will help determine its specifics:

  • 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 working from home option?
  • How many days per week can people in certain jobs telecommute? Will this vary depending on seniority or other standards?

4. Don't deviate from the rules. If you pride yourself on having a close relationship with all of 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. It may be tempting to make an exception because she's such a strong contributor to the team. But 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. And 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 offsite.

6. Deter resentment. A final key to a successful telecommuting program is making sure those who work onsite are treated equitably. It can feel like a bum deal to be the employee left to handle all of the desktop problems that can't be performed remotely by telecommuting coworkers, for instance. It's not the job of those who work at the office to cover for those who don't. Make sure those selected to telecommute can do their full jobs offsite instead of relying on others all the time. 

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.