“Having choices today can attract better employees. Those who can’t be onsite can still contribute.”
“Commuting wastes time, energy and gas. Telecommuting reduces office space needed. Workers are less stressed and can manage time better.”
“It allows for a much better work/life balance. It’s also been proven that telecommuters are more productive.”
“A good employee is a good employee – no matter the location.”
These are just a few of the comments received in an online survey on msnbc.com that asked, “Is telecommuting a good thing?” More than 1,700 people voted, with 57.9% selecting the response, “Yes, it gives employees and employers flexibility.”
So if you’re one of those employers who are reluctant to take the plunge and give telecommuting a try, don’t be! These days, more and more jobs that don’t involve direct personal contact can be performed remotely, including positions in marketing, sales, software development, creative and clerical. What’s more, there’s plenty to gain from the arrangement – for both your business and your employees.
- Telecommuting prevents interruptions in workflow – A dead car battery … a sick kid who needs bed rest … an appointment for cable hook-up – for all the reasons an employee has to come in late or miss work altogether, he could log in to his desktop at home and still get work done. Deadlines don’t have to be compromised just because an employee is home-bound.
- Telecommuting reduces stress and boosts productivity – It’s no surprise that the workplace can be a stressful place. Frazzled, stressed-out employees are not effective – they’re present, but they’re not productive. In a more relaxed, home environment, they can focus on the task at hand without the frayed nerves.
- Telecommuting trims your overhead costs and doesn’t require expensive equipment – In most cases, a telecommuting employee only needs a computer, Internet access and a phone. He or she probably already has these items available at home, which means no additional costs for your business to get them up and running. And if your company is growing, it can do so without the need for additional workstations or office space.
- Telecommuting supports a healthy life/work balance – Most employees long to spend more quality time with their families. Just by eliminating the bumper-to-bumper commute and other time-drainers in the workplace, employees can complete their work PLUS enjoy more time with their children, spouses or partners. This morale-booster alone can help you retain qualified employees who might otherwise look for work elsewhere.
- Telecommuting is “green” and good for the globe – During this time of increased environmental awareness and attention to carbon emissions, telecommuting is a smart option. Fewer people driving to and from work means fewer cars on the roads guzzling gasoline and polluting the environment.
Practical Considerations with Telecommuting Employees
Obviously, telecommuting isn’t appropriate for every employee or situation. For remote arrangements to work, employees need to be disciplined, organized and self-motivated. With no one watching their every move, they may be tempted to slack off or abuse the privilege.
Encourage your telecommuters to touch base with a manager or direct report regularly (by phone or email), and feel free to restrict telecommuting with local employees to a couple of days a week.
Finally, you need a system for tracking the hours an employee spends working remotely. This includes work time, overtime, vacation time and sick time (or collectively, PTO). As a first step, let telecommuting employees know the number of hours they’re expected to work each week. Then, require them to report all time spent working, with the understanding they’ll only be paid for the amount of time submitted. Last, be certain a manager or supervisor reviews all submitted work to ensure it reflects the amount of time reported. Although you can’t deduct time or refuse to pay employees for their time, you can discipline employees (or end the telecommuting arrangement) if they’re not performing to your expectations.
Bottom line: You control the arrangement, but time-and-pay rules still apply, even if an employee is working from home.