According to reports released by CNBC, around 70% of all workers around the globe work from home at least once a week. This is a huge increase from 2016, when only 43% of workers telecommuted. These numbers are expected to grow. Studies reveal 4 in 5 workers agree that telecommuting is less stressful than reporting to the office. With a talent shortage breathing down the necks of hiring managers everywhere, providing perks like telecommuting can help bridge that crucial gap between an offer and a candidate’s acceptance.
But telecommuting also presents unique challenges for many employers. Security, productivity, communication, and employee burn-out are all things to consider before adopting a telecommuting program. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! A healthy telecommuting program can have many benefits, including a more diverse workforce, a healthier work/life balance for employees, and a boost to your company’s reputation.
Also, by allowing employees to work from home, you are giving opportunities to a group of talented individuals that are otherwise unable to conform to typical office setups. Consider those who are physically disabled, or single or disadvantaged parents who are balancing stressful childcare schedules. Telecommuting offers an opportunity for employers to tap into these often neglected talent pools.
Feeling apprehensive? Telecommuting programs also have the potential to reduce significant expenses like parking passes, office supplies and productivity loss due to illness. After all, if your telecommuter comes down with the flu, you don’t have to worry that it will start an office-epidemic.
Here are some tips for getting your telecommuting program up and running:
- Consider the practicality of all positions.
Does your company deal with sensitive data or personal information? If so, it might not be appropriate to allow telecommuting for those who deal directly with that information, unless you know that the data can be properly secured. But for someone who works in, say, a marketing capacity, telecommuting might be perfectly appropriate.
- Run thorough background checks.
A telecommuter may not have physical access to your business, but many jobs require that remote employees have access to sensitive, often proprietary information to do their jobs. As a result it’s critical that you verify your employee’s identity, their qualifications and their references. It’s important to know that you can trust your telecommuter to perform remotely as if they were in your workplace.
- Clearly define the rules in a written policy.
A defined policy concerning telecommuting (including reporting methods, work schedules, compensation, and other important factors) can help stop problems and miscommunications before they occur. This policy should also include what expectations you have for your telecommuters regarding workload and productivity. It can be difficult for telecommuters to benchmark their work when they are physically distant from their peers.
- Communicate frequently and openly.
When employees are out of sight, communication can lapse. Make sure to schedule calls or skype sessions that get you in contact with your telecommuters frequently and regularly. This helps keep your telecommuters from feeling isolated or uninformed, and can also help you enforce a positive workplace culture.
- Help your telecommuters create a healthy work routine.
Two of the most common obstacles telecommuters report are isolation and the potential for distraction when working from home. As an employer, provide your telecommuters with information on how to achieve work/life balance and create a designated workspace in their homes. With telecommuting on the rise, there are plenty of websites offering great advice that can help prevent burnout.
- Create a clear career path for telecommuters.
A few years ago, MIT Sloan published a study finding that telecommuters on the whole receive poorer performance evaluations, smaller raises, and fewer promotions than their on-site counterparts, even if the amount of work and work quality is the same. Make sure you are properly laying out career paths, work goals, and benchmarking criteria. By creating clear, understandable goals for your telecommuters, your managers will be able to properly evaluate their work without bias towards on-site employees.
- Provide backup office space.
Sometimes telecommuters may need to come into the office, whether it’s for an important meeting or a project that requires on-site resources. Set aside some extra office space to accommodate them, and your telecommuters will feel like part of the team. This doesn’t need to be elaborate; having an open conference room available can serve as a work area for emergency situations.
Telecommuting can be an exciting, positive benefit for your employees. With a healthy plan in place and clear objectives in mind, it can also provide your organization with a boost in talent at a time when hiring isn’t easy. Once word gets out that you have a well-prepared telecommuting program, applicants may be more likely to apply – and spread the word to their friends.