Tips for Establishing a Telecommuting Policy for Your Small BusinessTelecommuting can be a boon for your business, but only if you set some ground rules first.
With advances in technology creating a more highly connected world, more people than ever are working from home. While remote employees enjoy more freedom and flexibility, business owners are also benefitting from telecommuting programs, by having happier, more productive workers and keeping office costs down.
According to a Gallup poll, over a third of U.S. workers have telecommuted for a job, meaning they worked from home or remotely, at least on an occasional basis.
The rise of telecommuting has a number of advantages for both businesses and employees. According to a study from Stanford University, employees who work from home are 50 percent less likely to quit their jobs and can save thousands of dollars each year by cutting back on day care, car maintenance, coffee, lunch and gas. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 77 percent of employees who work from home at least a few times per month are more productive while off-site – even when they’re sick.
Randy Moon, president of RMoon Consulting, said that companies that allow remote employment “are people-oriented.” Allowing employees to telecommute doesn’t just tell your employees you love them,” he said. “You’re also telling them, ‘we trust you and are willing to invest in you.’”
If you are considering offering telecommuting to your employees, here are a few tips to ensure the transition is successful.
Roll it out slowly
Before you let every employee work from home, you should test out telecommuting with one long-time employee, said Eric Wall, co-founder and CEO of Equivity, a firm that supplies virtual assistants for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Testing the waters with someone you already trust will help you “work out the kinks,” he said, and help identify potential problems before rolling out your telecommuting option to a larger group.
Set goals and track productivity
If you want to guarantee that employees are staying on track throughout the workday, set specific, measurable goals for them. For example, Wall said when his employees are working, they must respond to emails within an hour, as well as complete their required tasks.
“We tell folks what we expect from them and how they are supposed to log time,” he said. “There needs to be thought put into it.” Your policy should be clearly defined and not ambiguous or confusing.
Increase your communication
In an office environment, you can see your employees working at their desks. But when they work from home, you have no idea what they’re doing, which is why good communication with your remote staff is critical.
Moon said it’s best to do daily calls or chat sessions with remote employees to see where they stand on projects. “Do anything you would typically do as a supervisor,” he said. “Up the communication a bit so workers understand that you will ask questions and keep on top of [a task].”
Think about physical safety issues
If employees are working from home, there is always a slight chance they may have an accident and get physically hurt. Before allowing your workers to telecommute, Moon recommends looking into your workers’ compensation and business liability insurance to make sure you are covered under all circumstances.
Protect your data and secure files
You should also take measures to ensure your business’s sensitive information is kept safe. Hackers can easily breach an open Wi-Fi network or guess simple passwords to get into your systems and steal data from users.
Wall said to protect yourself by limiting access to only the particular employees who need it and using software that encrypts your data.
Robert Beaven, a senior executive consultant and director at Jennifer Brown Consulting, suggested using a file-sharing program, like Dropbox, to keep important documents safe. He also scrubs information in sensitive documents and gives the files a general file name, so it’s harder for hackers to figure out what data is important.
Once you’ve tested the waters and set some ground rules, you can introduce your telecommuting plan to your employees. If done right, telecommuting can help employees be more productive and professionally satisfied, as well as save time, money and resources for your small business.