When implemented correctly, telecommuting can be a mutually beneficial tool for both management and the workers. The (sorta) new practice of telecommuting has come under fire recently. Major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy are either eliminating, or cutting back on their telecommuting and ROWE (results only work environment) programs.
Is this a sign that telecommuting doesn’t work, or maybe just perhaps that it doesn’t work for these companies at this time? It’s no secret that both of these companies are not exactly at the top of their game, and it seems that both are taking an “all hands on deck” approach. Many employers might be thinking, well, if the CEO of Yahoo can’t make telecommuting work, how can I? First off, you aren’t Yahoo, your company, its management and your workers all have different needs than those of Yahoo or Best Buy.
The technology that we have at our disposal today gives us the ability to conduct much of our traditional office work at home. It would be a shame to let this freedom go to waste, but it seems that for many companies, a failed go at telecommuting has muddied the waters. Telecommuting isn’t just a memo that says you can now write reports and reply to emails from home; a lot goes into a successful telecommuting program, and it’s worth a look to potentially give your employees the extra time, freedom and space that telecommuting lends them.
Who can hack it as a telecommuter?
Not all employees are made for telecommuting. Telecommuting isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. While both parties stand to benefit from workers working remotely, not everyone is cut out for this particular way of contributing to the company. Here are some things to consider when offering telecommuting options.
Does this person:
-maintain a high level of productivity on their own?
-have any concerns about working in isolation for periods of time?
-maintain the ability to come to the office for meetings or other scheduled events?
-need an above average amount of supervision?
-hit goals and deadlines on a regular basis?
-communicate well and often?
These questions should narrow down the pool of those employees who can hack it from home and those who can’t. A little tip: Make sure you are asking these questions not just about the employee but the employee’s surrounding manager and team; they’ll be affected by the move as well (should you make it).
Is the tech there?
Technology is the driving power behind the telecommuting movement; it’s vital that all the tools that your employee needs to conduct his/her work are available. Many telecommuting companies that have this gig down have a standard setup that happens before a worker can telecommute—basically a checklist of the tech tools that everyone should have. These can include, but are not limited to: a dedicated phone or cable line, a fax machine or service, reliable internet and a hot spot (should the internet company fail you). And a working knowledge of the systems, apps and programs that are commonly used in your company is vital. Screensharing apps that allow one to login to one’s work computer are the final piece of the puzzle.
Second only to the technology that physically makes telecommuting possible is the ability for the managers and employees to maintain good communication while not face-to-face. Establishing a key means of communication and streamlined form of communication is key here. You can fax, email, text, IM, Skype, Gchat, Facebook, Tweet, DropBox…and the list goes on and on. Create a mode of communication to which everyone can adhere.
Performance and Work Hours
The number of hours the employees must dedicate to the company should be clear, or it should be made clear exactly how much and what work should be done in a specific time frame. The terms of termination of the telecommuting program should also be made clear. This is one of the primary gripes of the Yahoo! employees: the fact that the decision was communicated so abruptly. Additionally, it is a good practice to have workers in the office at least one to two days per week/month for some face time and to allow them to touch base with their co-workers and supervisors.
Don’t Fire the Babysitter
Telecommuting does lend families more time together, but that doesn’t mean that you’re replacing childcare by allowing these parents to work from home. The distraction of children in the home unsupervised will most likely lead to the demise of your telecommuting program.
The Benefits of your Thoughtful Telecommuting Program
Offering the option of telecommuting can lower the costs of maintaining a traditional work environment. Productivity has, in some cases, drastically increased when employees are able to work remotely. A recent survey on telecommuting and productivity reported that more than two-thirds of respondents (67%) ranked increased productivity as telecommuting’s chief benefit. Additionally, would-be commuters are giving mother nature a big break as about 2.5 million employees telecommute regularly, keeping those cars from polluting the environment during stressful commutes. And employees are more comfortable, lending to a lower stress, happier work environment. Who needs shoes anyway?