07 Oct Can you make telecommuting work for your company?
First, there was the closed office, one to a person, hopefully with a window. Then there were cubicles, lauded as increasing productivity (no hiding behind closed doors and surfing the internet), then came open plan (now embraced by 70% of all employers) – no walls between cubicles, just communal tables demarcated by one workstation after another (among other things, very cost efficient).
But still very much in the mix is no office at all – at least not at the employer’s site. Telecommuting is popular both with small companies who are still tight on space, to large companies like Dell and Xerox (where a reported 11% of their workforce work from home).
Is telecommuting right for your organization? Well, that depends.
Here are some things to consider to make telecommuting work for your company
What do your employees do?
Obviously some roles – assembly work, construction jobs, simply cannot be performed offsite. But when you consider departments like legal and finance, how often do you need to interact face to face?
Positions that are “self-contained” – where most of the work is between one person and their own reports, as opposed to a lot of collaborative efforts, can be done from a remote site.
Are your employees already “invisible”?
If your company has multiple locations and there are teams supporting offices other than where they are physically sitting, then you may already have tested the case for letting those teams work from home.
After all, if you have an office in Los Angeles, supported by an IT team in New York, is there any reason why your New York employees cannot also be supported by a remote team? If it’s working seamlessly across offices, that’s a good argument for a team that can be telecommuting.
Would you gain talent?
If you are in an area of the country where labor is scarce, expensive, or both, you might benefit from opening a vacant role up to other markets. Finding a HR professional in Dallas or Atlanta might be less expensive than the same profile in Chicago.
How do you accommodate your telecommuting employees?
Obviously in today’s technological era you can easily create web conferences, share computer screens, instant message and connect in other ways just through a strong technical support system.
[bctt tweet=”Investment in technology to support telecommuting could easily be offset by less real estate needed to house workers in offices on site.”]
Will your remote employees feel isolated?
Maybe. But telecommuting doesn’t have to be all or nothing. First, find out if working from home appeals – some people thrive off the energy of an office environment and want live interactions with colleagues.
Next, consider moving into telecommuting in stages, perhaps only once a week to start. And if you have large numbers of remote employees, be sure to have company off sites or other events from time to time that require on location participation.
You can also send flowers on people’s birthdays, or a gift card on a work anniversary so that people feel remembered even if they aren’t visible.
Telecommuting can create great advantages for employee and employer
As of 2014, 2.8 million workers telecommute. That doesn’t mean it’s right for every worker, or right for every company. But there are real advantages to considering it. If it is implemented, a thoughtful plan, with the right technical support and training is paramount to success. And done well, the benefits for everyone involved could outweigh the learning curve necessary to adjust to a world where colleague connections are made outside of the company water cooler.