Telecommuting's Powerful Benefits
More than 34 million Americans telecommute at least occasionally. While it might not be for everyone, the future of telework appears bright.
I've written two posts on telework this week, one on the Telework Enhancement Act passed by the U.S. Senate and another on a Brigham Young University study that found telecommuters could work longer hours than their office-bound colleagues before beginning to feel work was interfering with their personal lives. I've made it clear, through sharing my own experiences as a teleworker, that I think telecommuting is a win/win for employers and their staffs.
So let's say I've convinced some of you without existing telework programs to let employees telecommute. How do you know which employees are good candidates for telework, and what kinds of policies can help ensure telework is beneficial to all?
Even though it's written from the perspective of an employee seeking permission to telecommute, I think this post on the Tell-a-Worker.com site also offers valuable guidance for employers willing to let staffers give telework a try. "Giving it a try" is one of the keys to making a telecommuting program work. Author Yasuo Long writes:
Suggesting a trial run in the initial stages will also allow you to show your boss that you are capable of working remotely and also allow him the option of changing their mind if they feel like it isn't working out.
Dan Demaree, CEO of public relations company the DPR Group and one of the sources I interviewed for a story on telecommuting, agreed the ability to end a telework arrangement is important for employers. He told me:
Some people are very disciplined and work just as well at home as they do at the office. But from a practical point of view, some people don't. They are easily distracted and find it more difficult to maintain productivity. The problem is, the employer doesn't always know which is which. When you come up with a policy, you want to enable employees to telecommute, but you must have a provision to pull people back into the office if it's not working out.
Long suggests workers who want to telework should exhibit above-average productivity at the office and be able to demonstrate increased productivity while working remotely. Those are good rules of thumb for employers to consider. Speaking from my own experience, I think folks who are highly self-directed make the best telecommuters.
Other items on Long's list can help determine which employees are good candidates. The second item, for example, is "I do most of my communication via e-mail and phone." Meredith Johnson, chief people officer at Gevity, a provider of human resources software and consulting services and another of my story sources, told me telecommuting doesn't work well for positions that require frequent face-to-face customer contact or access to in-office reference materials. On the other hand, she said, positions "that are heavy on computer work, require great concentration and have clear objectives" tend to readily adapt to telework.
Here are other applicable items from Long's list, with my comments in parentheses:
For more advice, check out the Telecommuting IT Checklist from IT Business Edge's Knowledge Network. I also shared a smart checklist for companies considering telecommuting from Gevity, the human resources specialist I mention above, in an earlier post.