Telecommute or Bust

It is my firm belief that if more companies and workers don’t begin to explore satellite offices and telecommuting then these rising gas prices and the rising cost of doing business in general will make any recent gains we’ve made in our economy moot. I believe that embracing a remote workforce, in any industry or sector where physical labor is not at its core, is the only way to self determine a recovery at the grassroots level.

What holds us back from telecommuting in our society? Preconceived notions of productivity and “putting in your time” instead of rewarding workers for efficiency and productivity by allowing for shorter days or personal time as reward for good work and good work ethic are serious roadblocks. Technological limitations factor in as well. Some workers are limited in their knowledge of personal technology and of how to set up a successful home work space. Some company owners are as well. Finances are another issue: not everyone can afford internet at home.

How can companies increase worker productivity, lower the costs of being an employee, lower the cost/size of office space, improve employee retention and increase the overall health and well being of their workforce?
By drafting a telecommuting policy now. Whether you intend to implement it for all employees to have as an option, all of the time, or simply live in an area with weather issues or a long commute for many workers, having a firm and clear policy for working from home in place will make great strides in solving a variety of issues for you and for your employees.

Who can telecommute?
Any job that does not require a physical presence (the trades are a good example of having a physical presence required, your sales team is not).

How can they telecommute?
Any laptop or desktop and an internet connection (better than dial up preferred, such as DSL, Broadband or FIOS) plus any kind of phone (VOIP, mobile or landline) will suffice.

Should I encourage full telecommuting or simply offer productivity rewards such as flexible hours?
That’s up to the employer, the focus of the employees, and the type of work done by the company.

What kind of guidelines should I have in place?
Hours worked and measurements for work completed, attainable quotas and goals, periodic check ins, availability guidelines, rules for handling personal business while telecommuting, work life balance guidelines, and – if using a company laptop or computer – guidelines for software and files that are acceptable for installation and use.

How do I monitor my staff to ensure the work is getting done?
Instant Message programs, internal productivity and communication programs like Yammer or Salesforce, social media tools, regular check ins, email, and of course – the completion of actual work.

When telecommuting should I require an 8 – 5 work day, or allow for flexibility to handle life issues?
I think you should allow for flexibility to handle life issues, as being able to do so is part of the appeal of telecommuting, however; guidelines for what percentage of time is personal between 8 and 5 would be helpful.

Will telecommuting help working parents?
Yes, by saving on childcare and reducing the stress of balancing work and life, working parents will applaud a company telecommuting policy.

What if I want to offer telecommuting only seasonally?
Also acceptable, and a much appreciated option in any area with strenuous weather issues or periods of reduced access.

What if my employees or myself need help creating and implementing these policies?
Simply call in outside help like myself to come in, review your company and needs and help you educate everyone and draft guidelines, policies and implement your new strategy.

What if my employees need education to make this happen?
Another thing I can help you with.

  • I agree that the looming bust of the fossil fuel energy bubble we’ve been riding, and the resulting dramatic increase in gasoline and other energy costs, calls for a reevaluation of the viability and necessity of having a bunch of workers individually motor in to a central office, especially from long distances.

    And while WheresTheRemote.com is about jobs that are 100% remote, I also agree that it’s nice if employers in areas that frequently have weather conditions that make it treacherously dangerous for employees to travel to the office, such as New England, make it possible for employees to telecommute in those situations, especially when the employer creates an environment that makes the employee feel a lot of pressure to come in every single day and the employee performs their work on a computer anyway.