Confession: As a regular telecommuter, I find it difficult to write objectively about the topic. I tend to view it through my own rose-colored glasses. It's been positive for me, and for my employers as well. (At least I think so.)
The nature of my work and the culture of the companies where I've telecommuted make it an easy fit for me. This won't be true for everyone. Writing is largely a solitary pursuit. I am a highly self-directed person. I attend few meetings. I live near the office, so I can generally drive in on short notice when necessary. My employers have been mostly small companies with an open and casual atmosphere.
When I set out to write a recent story on telecommuting, my intent was to interview companies where it worked well and companies where it hadn't. While I was flooded with responses from companies in the former category, I didn't hear from any in the latter. (Maybe I will after this post.) That's not to say there aren't any caveats with telecommuting, a lack of camaraderie with coworkers being one of them. I touch upon several in the article, 'Employers Find Telecommuting Brings Savings Plus Productivity.'
So does this smart check list for companies considering telecommuting from Gevity, a provider of human resources software and services and one of my sources:
- Make a list, check it twice. Create a check list to analyze each job function for telecommuting compatibility. Look specifically at the type of work performed, the employees' personalities, and the performance measurements you'll put in place to optimize the initiative's success.
- Location, location, location. Think about where the program will be implemented: who will be off-site and when, who will not, and what the company will look like. Most employees will want to telecommute or participate in a four-day work week, but many won't be able to. Be prepared to deal with this fairly and sensibly.
- Think technical. Consider the related IT costs of telecommuting. Ensure that your organization is equipped for virtual work arrangements, including appropriate software, computers, connectivity, security and technical support. Virtual work arrangements can increase demands on IT staff if they are not well implemented.
- Spell it out. Use a formal telecommuting agreement that clearly articulates the terms of the arrangement. It should cover company expectations, who is responsible for equipment and appropriate workspaces, scheduling, etc. Most importantly, it should establish telecommuting as an accommodation, not an entitlement, that can be modified at-will by the employer, should company requirements change.
- Start small. Consider launching with a pilot program. This will help work out the kinks in a relatively controlled environment.
- Some face time is good. Some time in the office will almost certainly be required for telecommuters. This can help address the decreased teamwork and sense of belonging that may occur in those who are not in the office on a regular basis.