We’ve all heard some strong opinions about the great telecommuting debate. On the “pro” side, common perks include no more morning commute and the ability to attract top talent with the allure of a flexible schedule. This type of policy also works well for frequent travelers, as workers no longer need to be at their desks to get work done. Naysayers point to the distractions present when working remotely and a loss of accountability. So where does the truth lie?
In one survey from SkiptheDrive.com, half the employees said they are equally productive whether at home or in the office. Another 30 percent claim they are more productive when working from home, and half of those surveyed also said telecommuting reduces their stress levels. If you’re considering letting your team work remotely, it’s likely a good idea – so long as you take the right steps. Here’s how to do that.
Put Guidelines in Place
While you might think your employees will adhere to some boundaries based on common sense, take the time to be explicit in your expectations. First, decide how many days per week are allowed for telecommuting. Is Wednesday the work-from-home day for the entire staff? Or will you be assigning certain days to certain people, so there are always several individuals in the office? Or maybe you’re willing to let team members choose two remote days each week based on their own schedules. If this is the case, still be clear about what is acceptable and what isn’t.
When you have a more fluid work schedule in place, employees sometimes feel like the rest of the business parameters are more malleable as well. Instead of allowing assumptions to run rampant, again be clear. Craft a work-from-home policy, along with what is expected on the days your team members are in the office. Specify arrival time, departure time, lunch and other breaks and dress code (when working at the office) so there’s no confusion. If you’re explicit upfront, you will set everybody up for a successful remote working situation.
Properly Equip Your Team
Once you have the basics established and agreed to, it’s time to be sure your employees can be just as efficient at home and on the road as they are in the office. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and purchase each person an enormous monitor for their home simply because they use one at the office. But it does mean that everyone should at least be minimally equipped at home to get the job done smoothly.
The particulars around this will depend on what type of business you have, but most companies can start by looking at cell phones and computers. Consider supplying your team with work cell phones such as the Google Nexus 6; this way, you can reach them when necessary and they’ll feel an extra responsibility to hold themselves accountable.
If you don’t want to go down this route, think about reimbursing team members for part of their current cell phone bills. Since any company calls taken on their work-from-home days will be on their personal mobile phones, giving a set reimbursement per month is standard practice.
Once you figure out your approach to phones, take stock of what computer needs each team member has. If most of your staff works on a laptop while at the office, they can easily bring that home with them. But if they use a desktop computer that can’t be easily transported, you may want to buy a few laptops that can be rotated among colleagues on their remote days.
Make Use of Technology
If you have important meetings throughout the week that don’t require in-person attendance, take advantage of tools like Google+ Hangouts, Skype video chats or GoToMeeting conference calls (everyone will need a Web cam, of course). Being able to see one another enforces connections and also goes a long way in doing away with the temptation to multitask during calls (in other words, it encourages undivided attention).
As you work to implement a work-from-home policy within your business, remember you can have great success by giving your employees more freedom. Be explicit in your guidelines and expectations, enable your team members to thrive and turn to technology to fill in any gaps. You’ll see greater employee satisfaction and, if done properly, an upturn in productivity. What business couldn’t benefit from that?