Telecommuting has increased in popularity among employees and employers. Rather than sitting on congested highways during morning and evening commutes, modern workers can go to work at home, using technology to connect them with coworkers, customers and suppliers. Employees can spend the reclaimed time with family and friends or fulfilling personal obligations. As a result, modern employment opportunities can offer an improved balance between personal and work life that results in better health and enhanced job satisfaction and performance.
Remote work arrangements benefit employers, helping to explain why so many businesses have embraced telecommuting. Aside from the benefits that come with a happy and loyal workforce, companies have used remote workers to reduce operating expenses, recruit better talent and increase profits. In other words, remote employees can help companies compete and succeed in the marketplace.
The prospect of working remotely has gripped many job seekers, causing some employers to implement telecommuting and other flexible work policies as recruiting tools. As awareness spreads of the possibility of working remotely, your employees will likely become interested in working from home. As a result, you might be forced to make a decision regarding remote workers sooner rather than later.
Get ready to handle requests to telecommute from your employees by carefully crafting a viable telecommuting policy that reflects the needs and values of your firm. Many companies suspiciously regard telecommuting, supposing that remote work arrangements automatically result in productivity losses. Moreover, managers often believe that remote workers are difficult to supervise. It’s up to you to assess the advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting as well as the impact that employment model can have on your current and future success.
Practically any business, regardless of industry, has opportunities to benefit from telecommuting, so avoid the temptation to quickly reject the idea. Similarly, some jobs do not lend themselves well to remote workers, including positions that require specialized equipment or face-to-face interactions with customers.
Employees working from their home office can be happier and more loyal than their office-bound counterparts.
Online tutors, for example, can feel all the benefits of online tutoring. They have a very flexible schedule and can work from almost any place in the world.
Also, remote workers can reduce operating costs for their employers while improving productivity. When your employees ask you to let them telecommute, use these tips to make the right decision.
Make sure it can be done
For some people and some companies, remote work might be impossible. Before charging into any new employment arrangements, evaluate the entire situation. Always consider telecommuting requests with regard to your needs and policies to make sure you operate consistently with the needs and policies of your firm. An employee who wants to telecommute can potentially affect coworkers and workflows, so you should consider entire departments and teams as you make your decision.
As you consider the feasibility of telecommuting, evaluate the conditions within your company as well as the role and position of the person making the request. After all, some jobs require supervision, equipment or other conditions that only your facility can provide. Exercise caution because you want to avoid the unnecessary hurt feelings and expenses that can result from a bad decision.
Avoid a hasty decision. With a little hard work and creativity, you can create amazing opportunities from conditions that seem to make remote work impossible. Ask for help from your managers and employees as you evaluate the concept of remote work for your company. Working together, you can craft sensible policies and definite plans that can affect present and future employment decisions.
Now is a fantastic time to become thoroughly familiar with what an employee does during the course of the average workday and work week. Pay attention to the equipment, productivity software and supplies the worker uses as well as all the people with whom the prospective telecommuter routinely interacts.
Even if you discover that an employee requires a physical presence in your facility, avoid rushing to deny the request. Instead, consider the possibility of a hybrid employment format where the worker can telecommute on certain days. If you stay flexible and open minded, you might have a chance to create a win-win situation where you can enjoy the benefits of on-premises and remote work.
Your circumspect understanding of the situation will help you make the best decisions concerning remote work. Telecommuting will not work every time you try it. Still, through careful evaluation, you can determine whether a particular request to work from home has merit. By choosing the best candidates for telecommuting, your company has the best chance of enjoying its benefits.
Evaluate the employee
You have already learned to evaluate every job within your firm to see if they can be done from home. Now, you must evaluate your employees. Can the person who requested to become a telecommuter realistically become a remote worker?
Everyone has value as a human being, but some people simply cannot handle the responsibility of telecommuting. Especially when employees have long histories of being closely supervised, working from home might not work. Of course, communicating such a fact in a compassionate, practical and respectful way might challenge you.
1. Managing responsibility
Before rejecting or approving a request from one of your employees, consider the individual involved. Ask yourself whether the employee is capable of working from home. You might decide to turn down the request if the person has not demonstrated intrinsic motivation and the ability to complete tasks with little or no supervision. Some people do not have the self-discipline required to be a remote worker.
People who have spent a lifetime following detailed orders and depending on someone else to govern their activities during the work day, might not have the maturity or the sensibility necessary to independently work. If you approve a telecommuting request from an employee who cannot manage themselves, you can cause both of you to fail.
2. On-premises performance
If a person has trouble getting things done at the office and often leaves team members in the dark, you might want to deny their telecommuting request. Consider everything you know about your employee and make a sensible decision based on what you know. Has the person shown initiative and a pattern of proactive communication? If the answer is yes, you might consider approving the request.
As you process an application for remote work, you might also interview the rest of the team. Find out whether coworkers can easily interact with the remote employee when necessary and receive a prompt response. Similarly, you should discover whether the worker has demonstrated enough flexibility to accommodate the dynamic needs of a project and team. If not, you might want to deny the request.
3. Deserving the privilege
Although telecommuting can benefit your company money, remember that working remotely is a privilege. Employees with flippant attitudes toward attendance, promptness and quality probably do not deserve the chance to work from home. A punctual worker who has consistently, diligently and seriously pursued team goals, however, might have earned such an opportunity.
As a business owner and manager, you should know that a person who fails to perform well inside company headquarters will probably not perform well while working from home. Every employee deserves candid feedback based on their request to telecommute. If you feel that a person has underperformed, make sure you include that reasoning as part of your denial.
4. Valid reasoning
Why does an employee want to work from home? As an employer, you should make sure that your employees have good reasons for wanting to telecommute. Discovering such reasons, however, may require you to exert both effort and patience. Moreover, understanding the factors that motivate a telecommuting request can help you decide whether to approve or deny it.
Some employees want to work from home because they think that they can earn their paycheck with less time and effort. Such a motivation, however, should cause you to keep them closely supervised in the office. Of course, some people do not intentionally think this way. Before becoming judgmental, remember that some employees might not have a clear understanding of their latent desires.
Mature, self-motivated workers, on the other hand, might have reasons to telecommute that are valid and encouraging. An employee, for example, might desire a more effective work-life balance that can benefit both their personal and professional roles. Balancing hours-long commutes, work responsibilities and personal obligations can take an unfair toll on a worker who has exhibited stellar qualities.
Some employees might experience long or short-term personal issues that might involve health problems or childcare. Such reasons for requesting telecommuting privileges can assure you that they simply need assistance staying loyal to you while navigating life. Make sure you always keep an open mind about the needs of every prospective remote worker, but never lose sight of other relevant factors.
5. Available tools
Telecommuters must have essential tools at their disposal before they have a chance to succeed. If you approve a request before checking to see if an employee either is or can be properly equipped, you set the stage for failure. As your telecommuting policy evolves, update it with appropriate considerations.
In most cases, for example, a telecommuter must have a viable internet connection. Remote workers must have the ability to access vital tools such as email, instant messaging and chat as well as the applications your firm uses for customer service and support. Every job, however, has particular requirements, so make sure you include them as part of your detailed telecommuter policy.
The remote worker’s toolbox might also include important applications that they might not ordinarily use while working in company offices.
- An Email client to maintain basic communications with the firm.
- A VoIP telephony app to place and answer phone calls.
- Video conferencing apps to meet with stakeholders, including coworkers.
- File sharing utilities for collaboration. DropBox, OneDrive and other third-party products simplify the process of creating and editing documents in real time, eliminating complications such as redundancy that often occur while collaborating via email.
- Access to workplace tools such as enterprise social networks, CRM, and help desk.
- Antivirus, firewall and other security applications.
In addition to the above tools, a telecommuter must also have access to a computer that can run the necessary software. Also, don’t forget the list of other essentials that includes a scanner, printer, webcam, and office supplies. Perhaps, most important to the telecommuter is home office space.
6. A home office
Remote workers need a dedicated area of their home to use for work. Also, they need the ability to set boundaries within their home so family members and friends do not interfere with their work. Remote workers should get dressed for work and report to their home office in the morning. There, they must have enough space to do their work. Discuss the home office situation with your employee before approving a telecommuting request.
Remote workers with small, cluttered or crowded homes can choose to use the services of a remote work center. Such a facility provides the infrastructure of traditional office space and shares it with telecommuters who work for practically any firm. Remote work centers also offer some of the social benefits of a traditional office, including a supportive community of people who share similar terms of employment.
If your evaluation leads you to approve an employee’s request to work remotely, you should conduct a final review that includes a meeting with the prospective telecommuter. Make sure that the employee understands applicable policies and understands the criteria for performance reviews. You should also regularly schedule appointments that give both of you a chance to share feedback concerning the new experience.
You also must assess your own preparedness before approving a remote-work request. Business owners, managers and supervisors must make a solid commitment to their telecommuting policies and their remote workers to ensure success. While working daily in the office, you might tend to forget about the employees who work from home. As a result, your traditional employees might begin feeling as though they carry an unfair share of the workload.
Similarly, you might have a tendency to choose on-premises employees for raises, bonuses and promotions while ignoring your remote labor force. Remote workers can often feel as though you leave them “out of the loop” by leaving them out of meetings and events. Also, home-based employees might lose the bonds that they developed with coworkers during their tenure in the company office.
Prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead by creating a culture that includes traditional, remote and hybrid workers in every part of your business. Encourage your employees to use chat and video conferencing apps to engage in “office talk” as well as for business. Whenever possible, have your remote workers visit the office on a weekly or monthly basis, to help them keep pace with changes.
By creating an inclusive framework, you can prepare yourself to meet the needs of your employees and your firm as you embrace the new employment model. When you have properly prepared yourself, the deliberate effort required to integrate a new telecommuter into your business will, with practice, become natural.
Make the decision
Companies can save substantial amounts of money by using remote workers rather than traditional employees. You can, for example, reduce overhead by renting less office space. Similarly, you can reduce your utility bills and the expense of maintaining HVAC equipment. The use of technology-based management tools can give you a chance to reduce your payroll by consolidating managerial positions.
Remote workers also give your company intangible benefits. When you get your employees off the road during the daily commute, you instantly build eco-friendly credentials that can give your brand a marketing boost. Also, your company can produce more as expenses decline, resulting in increased profitability.
Remote workers enjoy reclaiming time that they previously spent sitting in traffic going to and from work, so they often enjoy a healthier work-life balance than traditional workers. Being happy and satisfied, your telecommuters can accomplish more and feel a greater sense of loyalty to their employer.
Offering telecommuting options to your workers can reduce employee turnover in other ways. Suppose you have an employee who either has health problems or needs to care for a loved one. In the past, that worker would have to quit their job to accommodate their new circumstances. By allowing such employees to work from home, you let them continue their career and you continue to benefit from their expertise. The ability to satisfy and retain your staff can, over time, reduce recruiting and training expenses and add further to your bottom line.
Although you lose the chance to physically look over the shoulder of your new remote worker, you should have policies, procedures and tools in place that help you ensure accountability from your entire team. Of course, preparing for a new remote worker is your responsibility. Make sure that you and your telecommuters have a clear understanding of your mutual expectations to avoid misunderstandings. Keep each other accountable by putting your agreement in writing.
You can mitigate the impact of the transition from traditional to remote work by creating a trial period. Such an option allows new telecommuters to gradually increase their time spent working from home, giving everyone involved time to adjust. Monitor performance and satisfaction levels during the trial period and cancel the arrangement if either you or the remote worker underperforms of feels uncomfortable.
Telecommuting has become the new “normal” in much of the world as markets become more competitive and corporate environmental responsibility becomes essential. Companies that embrace remote work have access to global talent pools and have a chance to reduce costs and increase productivity. Still, you should resist the temptation to adopt telecommuting for the simple reason of keeping up with trends. The decision about each of your employee’s request to work remotely, however, is yours.
Your company has particular needs that make it unique, so you should carefully consider if you can benefit from remote workers. Your thorough assessment of your firm will help you begin to understand what jobs you have that employees can do from home. Moreover, you will also have a chance to learn what jobs require on-premises workers.
The evaluation process will help you prepare yourself to wisely respond to telecommuting requests. After all, as the world continues adopting remote work as the new employment standard, you should expect your employees to want to join that trend.
At first, you might think that including remote workers in your labor force could disrupt your operation, an open mind will help you recognize opportunities to reduce overhead while boosting employee morale and loyalty. In fact, if you regard telecommuting as a win-win scenario, you can accept it and then evaluate your employees based on their merits and the reasons for wanting to work from home.
Investing in a thorough review of organizational workflows gives you and your team opportunities to improve efficiency and to determine the feasibility of remote employment. After understanding the roles people play in your company, you can proceed to evaluate each employee’s personal suitability for home-based work. By choosing workers who have shown good work skills, intrinsic motivation and the ability to work without supervision, you can improve the chance of success for your telecommuting program.
After validating the quality of a candidate, you can assess other factors that affect their request to work remotely. A person who has good reasons for wanting to telecommute along with the tools and space needed to do their job, you might want to allow your employee to work from home.
After granting a request, you and your employee should be flexible and honest enough to alter or rescind your agreement if the new arrangement fails. Also, knowing that remote employment is a privilege, you can use it in your firm as an incentive for employees to develop the work habits and personal responsibility that can qualify them for telecommuting opportunities.
Working remotely is a great way to improve the lives of your employees while boosting the profitability of your business. Use the above tips to learn how to handle your employee’s request to work remotely and then enjoy the challenges and the perks that the new employment model brings.
About the Author:
Jill Phillips is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur who loves to share her insight on various business topics. When she is not at her desk, Jill enjoys taking long walks with her dog. You can get in touch with Jill @jillphlps.