According to a survey conducted by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, regular telework among those who are not self-employed has grown by 103 percent since 2005. 3.7 million employees, which is approximately 2.5 percent of the workforce, now work at home at least half of the time. They also note that 50 percent of the workforce in the United States hold jobs that would be compatible with at least partial telework, and 80 to 90 percent of employees say they would like to telework at least part time. Furthermore, research has shown that telecommuting can increase worker productivity, decrease turnover in your organization, and improve employee morale. It even helps the environment, as it decreases the carbon footprint left by an employee’s commute to the office.
Steps to create a telecommuting policy
If your company would like to create a telecommuting program for its employees, the first step would be to consult with your legal team to form a written telecommuting policy. This should include:
- Specifics on the positions or types of jobs that do and do not qualify for telecommuting.
- What conditions employees must meet to telecommute. This can be a certain number of years on the job or a certain employee performance rating in addition to a specific assigned task.
- Requirements for the employees home office. Your company will want to make sure your telecommuting employees are productive. As such, you may specify that employees have a specific room in the house to work in, and that employees may not be simultaneously caring for their children during work hours.
- Requirements on the equipment needed for a telecommuter, and if it will be provided by the company or the employee.
- Specifics as to if the company is willing to repair or replace computer equipment owned by the employee that is used to work from home.
- What access the employee will have to company technical support for issues with email, voicemail, or internet.
- Specifics on what types of injuries acquired while working at home qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Information on what types of expenses incurred while working from home qualify for reimbursement from the company.
- Specification on the number of hours each day expected from a telecommuter.
- Information on the number of days per week your company will allow an employee to telecommute.
- Details as to if telecommuters must come into the office for mandatory meetings, or if teleconferencing is acceptable.
- A memorandum of understanding that even if an employee is using their personal computer to work from home, all corporate data and sensitive information is property of the company, and all company policies apply to an employee during their telecommuting hours.
- Requirements for how often a telecommuting arrangement will be revisited to determine it is still effective and appropriate for both the employee and the company.
- Information on your company’s right to revoke the telecommuting agreement, and what amount of notice required from you to do so.
Characteristics of a telecommuting employee
Once your telecommuting policy is in place, it becomes a new factor in the hiring process for new employees, as you will want to hire individuals you feel will be successful in a telecommuting environment. The following are some tips for selecting candidates that would make good telecommuting employees.
- Do a self-assessment of the qualities you want in an employee you will be managing remotely. For example, if you already have a lot on your plate in the office, you may want someone who is highly self-directed that you will not need to micromanage.
- Be specific about the optional telecommuting you offer in your published job descriptions.
- Consider posting your job descriptions to websites that cater to employees seeking telework, such as flexjobs.com.
- Make sure your initial interviews with a potential teleworker are face to face, which will allow you to get to know them better. You can later conduct a follow-up interview via Skype, so you can obtain a feel for their work environment and online demeanor.
- Know that while you cannot ask a candidate specifics about their home environment, you can ask about specific equipment they have in their home, such as a landline telephone, internet capabilities, and the operating system of their computer.
- Remember that telecommuters will be doing much of their communicating with the office via telephone and email, so outstanding written and verbal communication skills are an absolute must.
- Be sure to thoroughly check all of a candidate’s listed references and inquire about any previous experiences they have had with teleworking.
- Remember to include all of the specifics surrounding your company’s telecommuting policy during a new employee’s onboarding process. You want to make sure this policy is completing clear to each employee from their very first day on the job.
Trends in telecommuting
As telecommuting continues to grow in the United States, certain trends are being observed.
- Employees are increasingly willing to sacrifice other perks, such as higher salary and certain benefits, if they are given the ability to telecommute.
- The ability to telecommute is starting to work its way into fields previously not associated with it, such as engineering and science.
- Telecommuting is increasing among government employees.
- Statistics are showing that the average teleworker is a 40 year old male, not a young working mother as previously thought.
- Employers are increasingly offering telework as a mark of their commitment to the environment. Telework decreases the number of cars on the roads, and thus the resulting pollution. Additionally, it decreases electricity use at the office.
- Advances in computer technology, such as faster and more reliable home internet, VPN software which protects secure data on employer networks, and teleconferencing and videoconferencing programs, have made it easier to employers to embrace the concept of teleworking.
- Telecommuting is fast becoming a part of an emergency response plan for employers. When events such as snowstorms keep employees from being able to come into the office, they can opt to work from home instead. This is seen often with the federal government, when the Office of Personnel Management announces the option for unscheduled telework when a severe weather event occurs.
- As telecommuting grows, it allows companies to save money by decreasing their office space. Studies show that the employees of Fortune 1000 companies worldwide are only at a desk in their office 50 to 60 percent of the time. Increasingly, offices are moving toward shared community workspaces which can be used by any employee on days when they come into the office.
In fact, telecommuting is becoming so ubiquitous that BenefitsPro.com named it one of the five biggest human resources trends for 2015. They go on to explain that previously, it was thought that an employee working from home would be easily distracted or less productive than they would be in the office. However, research over time has shown that quite the opposite is true. Employers are actually finding that those working from home are regularly putting in extra hours due to the time they are saving by not having to commute.
To telecommute or not to telecommute
In summary, if your company does not currently allow your employees to telecommute, it is something you should seriously be considering. As employees continue to seek the ideal balance between life and work, offering flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting can make your company more attractive to potential employees and enable you to seek out and hire the very best in the field.