Companies are always looking for new and creative ways to cut costs while enhancing productivity. One way they are doing it is by allowing employees to work from home, also known as “remoting” or “telecommuting.” Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Americans working from home rose 41 percent and, as of 2013, 10 percent of the U.S. workforce worked from home.
The shift is being driven by the fact that companies are recognizing the significant benefits of telecommuting for productivity, morale and cost savings. If you don’t currently have a telecommuting policy in place, or if you need help managing remote employees, this article can help you realize the benefits as well.
The cost benefits of telecommuting.
By allowing employees to work from home, you can save on rent, overhead and other costs related to traditional in-office workforces.
In addition, by eliminating the need for employees to come into a central location, you can expand your candidate searches to other areas of the country – greatly expanding your talent pool and allowing you to hire more qualified, and potentially less expensive, employees.
In total, businesses can save about $8,000 a year per employee.
How does working from home impact productivity?
With high-speed Internet service available throughout the country, even in many remote areas, it’s easier than ever for employees to stay connected and collaborate. Mobile devices, video chatting platforms (including free solutions like Google Hangouts) allow for collaboration and face-time without meeting face-to-face in an office.
Is telecommuting right for you and your employees?
Telecommuting isn't for everyone – companies and employees alike need to recognize who is capable of working independently and who will be taking naps on their couch during work hours.
A good telecommuter:
- Thrives on their driven natures and personal freedom, and is able to create a work/life balance without strict guidelines
- Is a self-starter and a high achiever that produces strong results with a minimum amount of supervision
- Must be technologically self-sufficient
- Has the knowledge and experience to deal with problems that arise on their own
A good manager for telecommuters:
- Enters into telecommuting arrangement without reserve
- Does not resent the loss of direct control
- Sets clear expectations and deadlines
- Trusts employees
If you are uncertain about the benefits of telecommuting and how your employees will respond, consider implementing a performance-based pay system. This way telecommuters can be evaluated – and compensated – based on what they do rather than where they do it, giving them even more incentive to be productive.
Use telecommuting as a retention tool.
Not only can telecommuting save your company a considerable amount of money on things like utilities and maintenance, it can also be used as an incentive and retention tool, especially when bonuses are not available.
More and more workers are seeking flexible schedules to achieve a greater work/life balance, and offering the option of telecommuting can go a long way in boosting employee satisfaction. However, it is important for managers to enter into a telecommuting arrangement without hesitation. When employees sense that their employer is reluctantly allowing them to telecommute, it can have an adverse impact on morale. No employee wants to feel that their manager is wary of their work ethic or time-management skills.
In addition, it is important to make sure your telecommuters feel like they are still part of your team. Communicate with them frequently (without being overbearing) – keep them in the loop on important work issues, but also take the time to check in with them on a personal level. Ask them to be in the office for weekly or quarterly staff meetings to help them stay connected and offer their input. If face-to-face meetings are difficult to arrange, establish a time to speak with them over the phone once or twice a week.
Making telecommuting work.
In addition to having the right work ethic, successful telecommuters must have the right resources. To help telecommuters be as accessible as office workers, make sure they have the following tools:
- A high-speed/broadband Internet connection
- VPN access to your network that works with multiple operating systems
- A phone system that allows for remote access to voice mail, call forwarding and easy teleconferencing
- An instant-messaging or video chat system that allows your team to stay connected from any location
- Easily accessible and manageable project-tracking software
Beyond technology, the most important element of a successful telecommuting policy is clearly defined responsibilities and expectations. When you set goals for talented people and provide them with all the right resources, they'll prove they can succeed in any work environment.
If you are looking to add top talent to your team – on-site or in their homes – we can help. Contact us today.
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