Thinking of Offering Telecommuting Options? Make It Work with These Tips While Avoiding Some Common Mistakes

Telecommuting is one of those terms that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongues right now, from employees to employers.

Telecommuting if done right, has significant benefits

Telecommuting if done right, has significant benefits

In our technologically-advanced world, telecommuting is bolstered by the availability of so many offerings from smartphones to Skype, and it’s a great talent management strategy, because it provides employees with a flexible work schedule, often a big draw in recruitment and retention of the best talent.

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Like any new undertaking in the workplace, getting telecommuting right can be tricky, so if you’re thinking of implementing a program, consider these tips:

  1. Start with the technicalities. Telecommuting seems like such a simple concept—your employees occasionally work from home. Unfortunately there may be legal issues for employers, from taxes to insurance. Consult your legal team and make sure you understand the ins and outs of putting a telecommuting option to work in your business.
  2. There needs to be a balance between trusting your employees are going to get the work done when they’re telecommuting, but there should also be metrics in place to ensure that’s the case. Many studies show employees work best when they do feel their employers trust them, but before creating a telecommuting program, create standards they must adhere to in order to ensure they’re remaining productive and the program is effective. Companies that are frequently most successful with their telecommuting policies use it as a type of benefit for workers who show exemplary performance, and are given the privilege of a more flexible work situation as a result. It should be made clear to telecommuting employees that if the work isn’t getting done, the option will be removed.
  3. Even if you have a telecommuting option that’s going well, don’t neglect to understand the importance of face-to-face interactions. Try to have everyone in the office get together in-person at least once a week, in order to strengthen relationships and ensure your corporate culture is intact.
  4. Telecommuting can be a great resource to let you have access to valuable talent you might not otherwise be able to employee, because of geographic restrictions. If you’re looking to fill a specific position, whether it’s as a freelancer or a part or full-time employee, utilize telecommuting as a way to do that.

While the above tips are valuable to make a telecommuting program work, it’s also important to understand some of the most prevalent pitfalls that derail remote working options.

  1. Before you let an employee take part in telecommuting options, it’s important to really know what they do, and how they’re going to best serve your organization. There are some employees whose positions aren’t a good fit for telecommuting, so rather than jumping on the opportunity to let people work from home in a blanket or generalized way, gauge whether or not it’s a good fit for their role in the company.
  2. Just as you have to take a look at an employee’s role to determine if they’re a good fit for remote working, you should also take into account their personality and individual characteristics. Some people thrive when they’re in a social environment, and other people may have difficulty staying focused in an unstructured environment. You really need to get to know your employees to understand how they’ll fare when given telecommuting options, and if you’re unsure or have a large workforce, allow for trial periods to determine who’s making it work and who isn’t, which brings us to our next point.
  3. If you don’t have clearly defined metrics for success in a remote work environment, you’ll have no way to see whether or not an employee is succeeding, or whether it’s a good move for your company. A survey conducted by Gallup found that when employees work remotely for 20% of their time or less, it actually has a positive impact on their engagement, but when it’s a 100% remote work environment, the effect is the opposite, and it can lead to disengaged employees. When you don’t have metrics in place, it will be difficult to understand the true impact of the work arrangements you’re offering.

What do you think? Is telecommuting something that’s common in your office, or has it led to problems in the past? How do you determine who will have the option of working remotely?

September 24, 2014   Updated :March 16, 2015      

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