What is telecommuting, and why is it so popular?
Telecommuting is a form of work that can be performed remotely. The COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary for many companies to create remote working positions due to quarantines and safety concerns. Millions of workers discovered that they felt more productive and less stressed when they could work at least a couple of days per day from their homes.
Many companies tried to get their remote workers to come back to the office after pandemic restrictions were eased, but workers responded by leaving their jobs in pursuit of permanent remote positions. Some people value the ability to work from home more than competitive pay and consider it part of a company’s benefits package.
Some benefits of telecommuting for employees include:
- Better work-life balance for employees taking care of families
- Employee savings on transportation costs such as gas and vehicle maintenance
- Reduced workplace stress and increased productivity
- Increased job satisfaction and a greater sense of purpose at work
Employers also benefit when offering remote work opportunities. Some of their benefits include:
- Lower employee turnover rates
- Attracting talent from other businesses that don’t offer remote work positions
- Less wasted time in the office
- Fewer office-related expenses
Current trends toward remote work means offering telecommuting opportunities could help your company stay competitive. Most workers would prefer fully remote positions or hybrid schedules requiring them to only come to the office two or three times a week. If you don’t offer remote positions, you risk losing talent to companies that do. Most major companies have plans to transition some of their positions to remote work if they haven’t already.
What is a remote working policy?
A remote working policy is a set of guidelines for your remote workers. It establishes procedures, command structures and consequences for not following your telecommuting rules. Creating a remote working policy helps address common concerns that employers have regarding remote working. Some of these downsides include:
- Employees not working set schedules or logging hours effectively
- Distractions at home stealing employees’ attention or reducing productivity
- Cybercriminals’ efforts to steal important company data by exploiting software vulnerabilities
- Confusion over who each person reports to when working from home
Remote working policies might resolve these issues by setting clear, concise expectations for remote workers. You can also use your telecommuting policy to decide who no longer qualifies for remote work due to performance concerns or inconsistency.
How to create a work-at-home policy for your business
Use these steps to create your own remote working policy.
1. Decide which employees are eligible for remote work
You don’t need to offer remote work to all your employees. You can set eligibility requirements that motivate workers by making remote work a benefit rather than an expectation. When deciding who’s eligible, set clear parameters to prevent miscommunications and hurt feelings.
Examples of what might make an employee eligible for telecommuting include:
- The employee can dedicate space at home to working that’s both private and suitable for remote work.Make sure that remote employees have the space for a home office and the ability to keep work materials secure.
- Tenure with your company. Decide whether remote opportunities are only for employees who’ve proven themselves within your organization. For example, you could limit remote work to people who’ve been at your company for over a year.
- Whether it’s possible to meet expectations from home. Some jobs can’t be performed remotely. You should distinguish between the roles that are eligible for remote work and which duties need to be performed in person.
- Positive performance reviews. If an employee isn’t performing well at the office, they might need more time face-to-face with their supervisors to get up to speed. Telecommuting positions can be reserved for your best performers.
It’s helpful to include which people in your company have a say in making these choices.
2. Provide workers with the right equipment and security protocols
To address potential security and privacy concerns, consider providing computers and software for your remote employees. Additional security measures to take include:
- Offering training sessions about cybersecurity and what individuals can do to protect their data from hackers
- Working with a cybersecurity firm to choose effective security programs and respond to imminent threats
If you’re monitoring your employees’ computers, they deserve to know what’s being monitored and what efforts you’re taking to protect their privacy.
3. Set clear expectations and consequences for violating remote working protocols
Communicate what you expect in clear terms to remote workers so they know how you’re monitoring their hours and productivity. Examples of expectations include:
- Which hours of the day employees must be available to speak with team members and supervisors
- What happens if workers miss their deadlines, including losing the privilege of working remotely
- How to log hours worked and who to ask before working overtime
- What days workers are required to be in the office if they’re working on a hybrid schedule
- Disciplinary steps management may take if workers violate telecommuting policies
4. Establish a command hierarchy and communication methods
Employers are more open to using chat services and videoconferencing than before, but there are many services to choose from. One way to ensure your team is in touch with one another is to decide which messenger or video conferencing software to use and require all work communications to go through those channels. Having too many ways for employees to communicate electronically can create confusion, and some people might not receive important messages.
When you’re providing remote work opportunities, decide who people report to and create a hierarchy. Workers won’t need to waste time tracking down the right person to ask their questions if they can ask their immediate superiors.
5. Ask for employee feedback
Remote work is changing the workplace rapidly, and it’s okay if it takes your business some time to get things right. One way you can continue to improve your telecommuting policies is to ask your employees to give their opinions. If you’re open to suggestions on how to improve, your team feels heard and valuable as well.
Instead of random feedback sent through multiple points of contact, consider creating a monthly or quarterly survey to record complaints, suggestions and what’s working for people. The ideal survey gives respondents plenty of opportunities to speak their minds without asking so many questions that workers choose not to participate.
6. Adjust as needed
What works today might not be appropriate five years from now. Keep an open mind and improve your remote working policy as you encounter problems or complaints.