Few entrepreneurs in 2014 expect all of their employees to sit in a fixed office space 40 hours per week. Rent is expensive, and businesses can slash overhead if they do not need to provide employees with full-time work space (some estimate that an employer may save over $10,000.00 per person by allowing its employees to work remotely).
Many employees like the opportunity to work remotely to save on commuting time and costs and to increase their flexibility, and a happy employee is often a more productive employee. Moreover, the federal court of appeals for the circuit that includes Ohio recently ruled that working remotely may be a reasonable way for employers to accommodate employees with disabilities that prevent them from coming to the workplace every day.
Telecommuting is the ever-increasing practice of working from home or another remote location at least part of the time while taking advantage of technology to tap into resources housed at the office. Telecommuters view work as something to do, not somewhere to go.
Despite a number of advantages, many employers also worry about the downside of employees working from home, as it is more difficult to observe and supervise employees who are out of sight, leading to potential poor communication and loss of production. However, with a few helpful tips, supervisors can get the most out of their remote employees and rest easy that the job is getting done effectively.
Communication is key. A critical ingredient to supervising telecommuters effectively is communicating well with those working from home (and this is probably true for your employees working in the office as well). Employees working remotely may feel they are out of sight, out of mind and their motivation and productivity may sag if they do not feel appreciated. Moreover, an employee who feels excluded is more likely to feel he or she is being treated unfairly or discriminated against. Make sure you speak frequently with remote employees to ensure they have the resources they need and that they feel connected and appreciated.
Make your expectations clear from day one. Employees who work remotely must be held accountable for their productivity. Employees may be efficient working from home or a coffee shop, but they must know from the start that they are still on work time, not play time. Make your expectations clear from the start. Let employees know what goals and deadlines must be met, and then hold them accountable if they do not meet them. Also, make clear your expectations regarding when an employee should be working. You may have strict guidelines for what hours telecommuting employees keep, or you may not care as long as the work gets done, but either way, make sure to share those expectations clearly with remote employees. Ideally, put your expectations in writing and have your employees sign off that they understand what is expected.
Give your employees the resources they need. You will keep your remote employees on more of a level footing with their in-office colleagues and get the most out of their production if they have the resources they need. If employees need special software in the office to do their jobs, make sure your remote employees have access to that software at home. If face-to-face communication is important in your business, make sure employees have video conferencing programs. An employee should not be put at a disadvantage because he or she does not have access to the resources available to those in the office.
Make smart hiring decisions. If you intend to rely on remote employees, be careful who you hire, as telecommuting isn’t for everybody. You will need reliable, independent self-starters who do not need you looking over their shoulder to get the job done. You will also need people who are good communicators who keep you informed as needed and do not become distant just because they are not sitting at the desk next to you. Choosing the right employees will make telecommuting a far less stressful and more productive option for you as a manager.
Telecommuting employees who are well-connected to what is happening at the office, who know what is expected of them, and who are given the tools to meet those expectations have the means to work effectively and efficiently. If you are considering implementing telecommuting for your business, contact your attorney to create a policy that works for your company and your employees.