By: Kayla Bell on November 25th, 2013

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5 Best Practices to Implementing a Telecommuting Program

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In the last several years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of employees requesting the ability to telecommute. Given the technological advances that have occurred to promote web-based collaboration in the workplace, it seems that telecommuting is quickly becoming seen as a standard to the current workforce. 

Telecommuting is defined as a working arrangement in which employees are able to work from a location other than the normal worksite and utilize technology to complete their work and communicate with co-workers, customers, and managers.

Stepping into the world of telecommuting can be intimidating for an organization. You may find yourself asking how you even begin to transition into the telecommuting world.  Consider the following when determining the parameters around your potential telecommuting program.

Best Practices to Consider When Implementing a Telecommuting Program

1. Technology is Key

What makes for a successful telecommuting program is the technical support behind the employee.  E-mail, web-conferences, phone conferences, virtual collaboration, and internal websites or networks that can be accessed from a remote location all contribute to a thriving telecommuting program.  Take a look at your organization’s IT infrastructure and determine if your employees will be able to access the information, and other employees, necessary to do their job.

2. Not all positions are suitable for telecommuting

As we see a rising trend in telecommuting, it’s important to remember that just because your employee is asking for the ability to telecommute doesn't mean that the requirements of his/her position are conducive to the arrangement. 

Review the position description and consider the key requirements of the position.  For instance,

  • If the employee is wishing to telecommute full time, will they be able to successfully meet the needs of the position from a remote location?  
  • If the employee is wishing to telecommute for a portion of his/her work week, will he/she have enough work to maintain productivity and efficiency while working remotely?

It’s also important to consider contractual and customer requirements, if applicable. Be sure to obtain all necessary approvals before allowing employees to take customer or contract work to an outside location.

3. Not all employees will be successful in a telecommuting environment

If you've determined that a particular position is suitable for a telecommuting arrangement, it’s important to determine if the employee will be successful at executing the arrangement. 

Consider past performance; if an employee has a poor performance record while working on site it is indicative of how their performance will be from a remote location.  A telecommuting employee likely has to be able to manage his/her own tasks with little oversight and direction from his/her manager.

Another factor to keep in mind is the manager’s ability to manage a remote employee.  Virtual management is different than managing an employee right down the hallway in the office; consider providing managers training on how to effectively manage remote staff.

4. Clearly communicate your expectations as an organization.

Telecommuting arrangements are most successfully executed when all parties are aware and are in agreement of what that arrangement entails.   It is recommended that employees are required to sign a Telecommuting Agreement that outlines the various aspects of the telecommuting arrangement.  

Items to consider including in your Telecommuting Agreement include:

  • The agreed upon telecommuting schedule
  • What constitutes an approved remote workspace
  • Expectations of availability during core business hours
  • Maintaining proprietary and confidential information
  • Employee’s approved work-space is considered an extension of your organization and during work hours while the employee is performing work functions all company policies are still applicable
  • Worker’s Compensation while working remotely
  • Liability waiver for your organization for loss or damage at an employee’s home
  • Requirements for daycare or dependent care during working hours
  • Expectations for conducting meetings with other employees and clients – telecommuting employees may be required to come to a normal working location on occasion for business purposes
  • Employees and managers will regularly revisit the telecommuting arrangement and determine if it is appropriate and effective for the telecommuting arrangement to continue
5. Telecommuting is a privilege, not a right

If you've executed a Telecommuting Agreement with an employee and find that it’s just not working you may determine that the position or the employee is not suitable for telecommuting as you had originally thought.  If a telecommuting arrangement is interfering with business operations, it’s okay to reconsider.  Stating that the arrangement will be regularly revisited in a Telecommuting Agreement along with consistent performance management and employee feedback by the manager, the employee should be aware that the telecommuting arrangement isn't successful.

In an effort to remain competitive in the market and provide a working environment that provides employees with the work/life balance they are looking for, you may want to consider implementing a telecommuting program at your organization.

Taking these five factors into consideration when developing a telecommuting program will allow you determine if telecommuting is appropriate and help you to place the parameters around the program that fit your organization.