Contributed by Lisa Michaels
Giving employees the freedom to telecommute is a growing trend that helps employers recruit and retain top talent. The convenience and comfort is appealing to employees, and it may even reduce expenses for employers.
But you can’t just send remote workers to the wolves. A company needs a defined policy to make it work.
A virtual employee program should offer a window into the remote employee’s workday so you can feel comfortable about productivity. Below, you’ll find some of the important factors to consider as you develop a telecommuting policy.
Decide Who Can Telecommute
Not every employee can work effectively with little supervision. For remote positions, you should choose only employees who demonstrate good work ethics and have a living situation with few distractions. Employees who want to work remotely need to be organized, disciplined, and self-motivated. Their position also needs to be suitable for remote work.
Employees who work from home should have job duties that don’t require a physical presence at the office. Jobs that require employees to have face-to-face contact with clients or use equipment located at the office are not suitable for telecommuting.
For every employee that’s interested in telecommuting, make sure to define exactly what your expectations are. Often, employers are worried that their employees will become too comfortable and lack motivation to keep up with their responsibilities. One way to prevent this is to make it clear what you expect from them on a daily basis.
This should include the hours they put in and staying in contact via instant messaging, video chat, or phone. Employees should be informed of meeting schedules and always be available for communications, priorities, and updates.
Set expectations for the quality and output of every employee’s work. Identify the attitude and skills that will enable remote employees to perform work to your standards. To ensure remote employees are staying busy, set reasonable deadlines or quotas wherever possible to ensure work gets done.
Choose Means of Communication
Effective communication is one of the biggest obstacles in managing your virtual employees. This can be difficult if you have several workers at different locations who need to connect frequently with each other and with their supervisors.
Telecommuters can only be reached by digital means and might miss important alerts or changes if something goes wrong with their connectivity or computer, or even if they get too engrossed in their tasks. Instead of relying on textual exchanges, there should be multiple forms of communication in place. Remote workers should be encouraged to keep their phones charged and close at hand, and to attend regular meetings via video conferencing software.
Remote employees also need to understand that phone calls, emails, and meetings still have to be part of their work day just as they are in the company offices. Without open communication, collaboration and work relationships become difficult.
Ensure Data and Device Security
One concern with a telecommuting workforce is digital security. Employees using their own devices may inadvertently introduce viruses to your company network. Even if you supply the device, they might still be tempted to download files or apps from home that have hidden malware.
Your IT team should ensure that every device that accesses your network has sufficient levels of protection in place. This includes firewalls, anti-virus software, encryption, and other forms of software protection both on each user’s device and your servers.
Make certain remote employees are educated on basic security policies such as secure passwords, logging off when away from their devices, and avoiding public Wi-Fi. These networks are insecure and can compromise the safety of corporate data. You might want to consider opting for a VPN (virtual private network) to ensure a secure channel for telecommuting workers who might want to work from a coffee shop.
You should also install remote-wipe solutions that enable you to erase the hard drives of any device that’s lost or stolen.
Clarify What Expenses You’re Going to Cover
Remote employees save on gasoline and other costs associated with the daily commute. However, they have higher expenses at home such as high speed internet, phone, electricity and other utilities, and office supplies, which may offset the money saved in the car.
You may want to establish a virtual employee allowance or reimbursement for these things. Your business definitely should pay for or provide for free any software you require of them for security or productivity reasons. Be sure to clarify in writing all expenses and limits you’ll provide to remote workers.
You could also make provisions for updates, replacements, or processes for requesting additional funds. Have employees sign their consent before they start working from home.
In summary, telecommuting can be a competitive advantage. However, you need to establish who can work at home and provide effective technologies for cyber security and communications. Be clear on your expectations for performance, and what expenses you intend to cover. With telecommuting policies working smoothly, both you and your employees will be happier.
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.
Track remote employee’s hours.