Having happy workers is vital to ensuring a successful company. For many workers, the ability to telecommute or work a hybrid schedule is not only a great way to keep them content but can be used in employee retention efforts and as a perk to make your place of business attractive to potential employees.
To make teleworking successful for your company, a sound teleworking plan with clearly defined policies is needed.
“Without a clear telecommuting policy, though, companies can flounder,” an article in Business News Daily stated. “Working from anywhere, whether at an office or at home, provides room for distraction. By spelling out your work-from-home policy, you can define exactly what’s expected of employees.”
Talentculture.com, a website for human resources professionals, suggests having these four things in place to create a comprehensive telework policy:
Your policy needs to be specific about things that might be taken for granted by traditional office workers. Since you can’t physically see telecommuters, you need to establish your expectations in a policy. The policy should address practical issues such as whether employees are still required to work set hours or able to make their own schedules? Create a protocol for employees to “leave” their desks or set clear hours for when they need to be logged on.
“Employees should fully understand what is expected of them when they telework,” the state of Massachusetts offered in a telework guide posted on Mass.com. “Outline communication and system tools and expectations to deliver on work and projects in the same way that you require when the employee is onsite.”
Some organizations implement core hours where all employees must be logged on and working but allow them to flex the rest of their hours to adapt to their schedules. Other organizations are finding great success with making the work week project or task based. As long as everything on their task list is completed, it does not matter when or how much they work.
These specific instructions can go for other aspects of working at home. Do workers still need to adhere to some sort of dress code? Do they need to interact with the public and make sure they have a quiet space to talk to clients? Whatever the rules are, make sure they are clearly spelled out and easy to understand.
“Providing detailed and comprehensive expectations will ensure everyone knows how to operate,” the Talentculture article notes.
Ensure employees have the proper equipment. Never assume that your telecommuters have the necessary equipment at home. Talk to them about what technology they have and what they still need. Some organizations allow employees to buy devices or furnishings; other companies purchase the same setup for everyone who will be working from home or remotely.
Employees cannot be expected to use their personal laptops or printers for work assignments unless that is spelled out in the telework plan. If employees are asked to use personal machines, ensure that it won’t put your company’s data at risk. Talk with your IT manager about the safest ways to enable telecommuting while still protecting your company information.
Relay any liability information to telecommuters to make sure they understand their responsibilities in being smart stewards of company information and equipment.
Construct a communication plan
While telecommuting offers great flexibility, it also has limitations in communication. Part of a successful telecommuting plan is creating clear lines of communication and expectations for how employees will communicate with co-workers, superiors, and the organization as a whole.
Communication is a two-way street. Supervisors need good communication with their teams to make sure everyone is on task and getting work done. At the same time, employees working outside the office can find themselves out of the loop, which can lead to bad feelings, miscommunication, and issues with production.
It is important to have a method of communication that utilizes a centralized platform such as Teams or Slack. Having a way to instantly communicate can benefit individual teams as well as the greater organization.
Talentculture.com stresses that the centralized platform should not be the only way of keeping employees apprised of what is happening. Using traditional forms of communication such as via the phone and email are important, but many organizations are also having success using the company’s intranet, blogs, or regularly scheduled newsletters.
Add communication workflows and suggestions into your telecommuting policy. This step will give team leaders examples to follow so they do not inadvertently alienate remote employees or let things slip through the cracks.
Gather continuous feedback
One of the keys to a successful telecommuting policy is continuous communication, not only between supervisors and their co-workers, but also employees and the organization. Getting frequent feedback can be vital in keeping ahead of potential problems or nipping current issues in the bud before they spiral out of control.
Your formal policy should include ways for employees to report on their telework experiences. Do not wait to send a survey once a year. Offer workers a feedback system so they can voice any telecommuting concerns, highlight what is currently working well, or offer solutions.
Take these suggestions and notifications seriously. Listen to what is happening on the ground and remain flexible. Be ready to take action to fix issues in the early stages.
“Your company’s willingness to make changes will show employees that you value their opinions and understand that this is a process rather than a destination,” the article noted.
This communication goes beyond just company performance to include employee health and wellness. Stay alert for any signs that your telecommuting employees might be struggling with their physical or mental health. It’s tough to notice that someone is having difficulties when they aren’t in the office.
Whether your company has offered telecommuting since the pandemic or is just starting to explore the option, getting the procedures formally established is important. The work landscape is changing, and you need to adapt. Even if your employees have been working from home for years, it’s never too late to create a formal, streamlined, and successful telecommuting policy.