Technology has brought us many benefits and among those is the ability to stay in touch with the office, even when we are sitting at home in our pajamas. Employers have recognized the cost and productivity benefits of telecommuting and as such, have started to develop policies that govern this well received practice.
Having a telecommuting policy in place means a better work environment for your employees and reduced overhead costs for your organization. Many organizations rotate their telecommuters so that they can downsize their existing office space, eliminating or reducing some hefty leasing costs.
Employees are able to work free of distractions in their home, or even the closest Starbucks or restaurant, without having to worry about the phone ringing off of the hook, or colleagues interrupting an otherwise productive workday.
The benefit to your employees continues with a marked reduction in their costs. They save money on gas by not having to commute and will notice a further reduction in their vehicle repair expenses from not having to use the car on a daily basis. It is important to note that an employee is able to write off a portion of their residential utility costs and housing payments on their taxes due to the fact that they are working from home as well.
When you are creating a telecommuting policy, you need to take three important factors into consideration. The first concerns work, followed by location and corporate policy.
- Telecommuting requires that an employee be responsible and can be held accountable. The amount of work to be completed on a daily basis needs to be clearly communicated and to avoid confusion a weekly schedule should be drafted and agreed upon. Having an efficient project management and/or online task management program should be a strict requirement.
- Consult with IT professional to figure out what equipment the employee will need to work away from the office. Will the employee need a smartphone like a Blackberry or iPhone when they are on the move? Also, figure out what their hours of work will be. They should always be similar to the hours that the office keeps or at least have structured “crossover” time when employees are available to each other.
- Establish how many days a week an employee should telecommute. This ensures that employees to not suffer at the hands of being out of sight and out of mind, and also allows you to have in person contact with them, so that progress can be updated, meetings can be attended and reports can be turned in. Having an entirely open-ended structure is often confusing to the employee – when structuring the guidelines, be sure to solicit feedback from the actual employee in order to design a plan that works best for both parties.
You will want to make sure that the policy does not interfere or conflict with other existing and/or legacy corporate policies on attendance management. Check with upper management or Human Resources to determine whether or not your policy is conflict-free.
If you are looking for a great template for a telecommuting policy, there are several available online. Womans-Work.com and Infotech.Com both have some that are easy to download and modify. These will give you a good baseline for where to start. Telecommuting is not only a great way to keep retention rates high, but also to cut some costs while encouraging productivity. If you don’t have a telecommuting policy, it should definitely be on your radar for the coming year.