Employers have long heard that telecommuting can be useful and economical, but there can be downsides. In February, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer elected to end the company’s work-from-home arrangement. Mayer’s decision to scrap telecommuting was based on her review of the company’s virtual private network, which showed that remote workers didn’t log in often enough.
Telecommuting can potentially lead to reduced productivity and even a dip in creativity. However, you may find that employees continue to expect the availability of this arrangement to help them balance their work and home lives. It may not be right for all companies, but telecommuting can still work for your organization if you give it some focused thought.
If your company has a telecommuting option or is considering one, keep the following three tips in mind.
Tip 1: Think strategically
Sometimes employers implement telework arrangements piecemeal rather than strategically as individual workers request telecommuting arrangements. This reactive approach can create the appearance of favoritism or cause other morale issues. Instead, telework should be implemented as strategically as possible, taking into account the needs and duties of specific departments and the entire organization. Where you or your company limit telework options, make sure employees understand precisely why.
Tip 2: Create written agreements
Consider requiring each telecommuter to enter into a written agreement. Such an agreement provides a framework for the discussion that needs to take place between the manager and the employee. The parameters of this agreement may depend on the type of work to be accomplished and other specifics, but should include:
• The duties and tasks to be performed by the telecommuter.
• The expectations for daily or weekly availability via phone, email, instant messenger, etc.
• The weekly/monthly telework schedule. How will the manager and coworkers be kept up to date about the employee’s schedule and any necessary changes?
• The daily telework schedule. Will the employee’s hours be the same as in the main office, or will they be different?
• A level of performance or particular behaviors that could eliminate the employee’s ability to work remotely.
Tip 3: Use good performance management practices
Performance standards for teleworking employees should be similar to those for non-teleworking employees. Teleworkers must be held accountable for the results they produce. As with non-telecommuting work, you should clearly communicate and document expectations for employee performance.
A different relationship
Managers and supervisors must realize that a different relationship will be required with teleworkers than with onsite employees. However, out of sight should not mean out of mind or out of contact.
Teleworkers present unique challenges for employers, but such a setup can still work — if your company is willing to give the arrangement the careful attention it requires.
Rebecca Bentz is a human resources subject matter expert and associate editor with J. J. Keller & Associates Inc., a nationally recognized compliance resource firm. The company offers a diverse line of products and services to address the broad range of responsibilities held by HR and corporate professionals.
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