It’s a good sign that economies around the world are slowly opening up to business as usual. But recent events have proven the unpredictability of the pandemic. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned since March 2020, it’s to respect Murphy’s Law.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of complacency if your business is running at 100% capacity. A time might come – sooner than later – where an unfortunate turn of events will necessitate a shutdown of business if the world goes through another series of lockdowns.
Protect your business from the dangers of today’s uncertain times by integrating a telecommuting program.
Top 6 Tips For Running A Successful Telecommuting Program
We can all argue whether vaccination is necessary or not. However, we can’t argue about the importance of having a telecommuting program in place for your business.
Think of the telecommuting program as a way of vaccinating your business without the side effects – if you do it right.
1. Introduce a Solid Telecommuting Policy In Your Office
Telecommuting isn’t a new concept. You can trace its origins to 2012 when then-Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer started a telecommuting program in the company. One year later, Meyer shut the program down, attributing the decision to its failure to significantly boost productivity.
It seems like Meyer jumped ship too soon because one year after she discontinued the program, telecommuting grew by 6.5%.
Meyer’s problems were a result of not having a solid telecommuting policy in place.
While telecommuting has become more of a necessity today because of the pandemic, the program must be guided by policies that establish its conditions, goals, process flows, tech profile, and other matters that determine its success.
“How to Craft a Comprehensive Telecommuting Policy” can be the title of an entirely new article. For the time being, here’s a quick summary of the issues that should be addressed by your company’s telecommuting policy:
- The Selection Process
It might come as a surprise to you but not everyone is cut out for telecommuting. Some employees actually prefer to work in an office because of their situation at home.
Likewise, some employees might not be qualified for telecommuting. This might be true for newly-hired employees who are still dealing with a steep learning curve. Their performance metrics won’t be substantial enough to be entrusted with work-from-home duties.
For these reasons, you have to come up with a selection process to identify the employees who best fit the ideal telecommuter profile. The selection process should consider workplace statistics, work ethics, recommendations from supervisors, and home/personal life conditions among others.
We will discuss this topic in more detail in Tip #2.
- Telecommuting Equipment and Online Tools
If employees are using company equipment such as PCs, laptops, and tablets to work from home, the policy must clearly state that these items will be used for work-related purposes only.
If the employee has to use his own computer at home, you have to make sure that the equipment can handle the demands of the job. Specify the required Internet bandwidth and memory storage for the computer.
More importantly, check that the computer is equipped with your preferred security software. Remember, the telecommuters are accessing data outside the office’s secure network.
We recommend that you regularly monitor the telecommuting team’s computers and take the necessary measures to protect your office network from potential breaches and attacks.
The computers must have the latest version of the online tools that you plan to use for communication, project management, file sharing, and time management to name a few.
- The Hierarchy
Establish the hierarchy or the organizational structure of the telecommuting team. There must be a team leader or a supervisor who can oversee the activities of the telecommuters and keep track of their progress.
Qualify and designate individuals to manage key areas of responsibility. For example, there must be someone that the team can rely on and contact for technical issues.
Although the telecommuting team is working outside the confines of the office, it’s still part of the organization, and it must have the ability to function by itself.
- Work Schedule, Compensation, and Benefits
Telecommuters are spared the inconvenience of the daily commute. Also, they get to spend less on food and the other usual expenses of the 9-to-5 office lifestyle. Meanwhile, Full-Time Office Employee “A” receives the same salary but takes home less pay because he incurs more expenses related to work.
Salary and total compensation can become a slippery slope to traverse if the telecommuting policy isn’t clearly defined in the company’s HR manual. You have to set up the work schedule as well as the policies governing the telecommuting program before you activate it.
Circulating the memo isn’t enough. We strongly recommend that you take the time to discuss the provisions on work schedule and compensation with your workforce.
Open the floor to receive questions from everyone. You might receive inputs that will help you fine-tune the telecommuting policy.
2. Qualify the Right People for the Telecommuting Program
Let’s pick up where we left off from Tip #1…
To be clear, make sure that the telecommuting program doesn’t discriminate. It must be open to everyone. However, a qualifying process must be in place in order for the program to start out on the right track.
No matter how many times you’ve reviewed its parameters, things can still go wrong when the telecommuting program goes live. Pioneering the program with the people who best fit the telecommuting profile will help reduce the risk of incurring costly mistakes.
Here are 5 tips on how you can come up with a reliable qualifying process for the telecommuting program:
- Review Personnel Metrics – Find out who among your employees has been consistently meeting benchmarks and performing at or above the desired numbers.
- Evaluate Work Ethics – Who among your employees has been diligent at work and behaving like a true professional? Look into their employee records.
Employees who have acquired multiple incident reports and have a history of unreasonable tardiness should be at the bottom of the list of telecommuting candidates.
- Consider Tenure – Telecommuting might be a “must” but it’s still considered a privilege. As such, prioritize the most tenured employees to avail of this benefit.
Those who have been newly hired or have been working with the company for less than one year are better off sharpening their skills in the office.
- What Do the Supervisors Say? – Once you have a shortlist of candidates, talk to their immediate supervisors and get their feedback. They might know these candidates more than you and can provide information that won’t show up in the employee metrics.
- Private Life – Since they’ll be working from home, it only makes sense to find out how their home life is.
Pay a visit to the home of the telecommuting candidate. Talk to the wife and kids. Get a feel of the situation. Look around and see if the conditions are ideal for a work-from-home arrangement.
Put your observations in a report and discuss your thoughts and opinions with the candidate. You’re not acting like the paparazzi. You’re only looking out for the interest of the company.
Don’t make your final decision until you’ve conducted a test run of the program. The test period can run for a minimum of 2 weeks. That should be enough time to get solid data about the program and the performance of the candidates.
3. Design an Online Workflow
One of the biggest criticisms against a telecommuting program is that the lack of organization leads to many mistakes. In fact, this was an issue that was highlighted by Meyer in her explanation of why she discontinued the telecommuting program at Yahoo.
Meyer believed that close, shared space collaboration was superior to telecommuting because it makes performance easier to track and keeps everyone moving along the same timeline.
While there’s merit to Meyer’s statement, this issue can easily be remedied by having online workflows built into the telecommuting system. These workflows should cover:
- File sharing
- Project collaboration
- Report generation and distribution
- Work/Project distribution
- Work/Project submission
- Quality Control and Quality Assurance
- Customer Support
- Technical Support
When you have this process flow in place, it makes organization much easier to achieve.
Everyone knows what to do, where to go, and whom to talk to. You can run the processes through software programs and apps and integrate them as part of the telecommuting system.
4. Schedule Regular Meetings
Let’s assume 30% of your workforce comprises the telecommuter team. Guess what? It’s still business as usual. The place of work has changed but there’s still work to be done, deadlines to meet, and goals to achieve.
Get on the conference call and schedule regular meetings with the telecommuting team. Set the schedule at a time and date where everyone is available. Create an agenda and distribute copies to all team members. Designate special topics for key people on the team.
If possible, schedule a general meeting every quarter or end of the year with everyone – onsite personnel and the telecommuting team. Don’t leave anyone out.
A survey conducted by Goodhire revealed that 61% of Americans don’t mind taking a pay cut if that would allow them to work from home. Your employees might feel the same way.
You can temper these emotions by meeting with employees on a regular basis and addressing issues that could affect productivity and increase the attrition rate.
5. Track the Performance of the Telecommuting Program
As with new business development strategies, find out how the telecommuting program is doing by tracking its performance. Create a performance criterion that includes the following variables:
- Accuracy – Evaluate the quality of work of the telecommuters; find out if the output meets or exceeds prescribed standards and calculate the percentage of errors or mistakes.
- Statistics – Determine the rate of consistency of the telecommuting team in meeting deadlines.
- Work Ethics – Identify the rate of absenteeism and tardiness by reviewing the time logs.
- Measure the ROI – Calculate the output of the telecommuting team in dollar terms then measure the ROI by cross-referencing it with the budget or cost of managing the telecommuting team.
With these types of data, you can readily identify which telecommuters are lagging and which ones are performing above expectations.
6. Adopt a Flexible Telecommuting Program
Even if you’ve come up with a telecommuting policy that’s delivered results, its guidelines, processes, and provisions shouldn’t be set in stone.
Here are 2 good reasons why you should adopt a flexible telecommuting program:
- Telecommuting is People
There’s more to managing a successful telecommuting program than just designating the employees with the best track record, experience, and skills to a work-from-home arrangement.
People adjust to a telecommuting lifestyle differently. In fact, you’ll get to see more of who they are when they are working remotely. Believe it or not, working from home has a learning curve to it. There will be some employees who won’t get the processes right the first time.
Be mindful of the situations that may arise as new employees become telecommuters. Some might make suggestions on how to improve the program and it would be a good idea to keep an open mind and adopt a few changes.
- Technology Continues to Innovate
Technology continues to innovate at warp speed. The app market is exploding with new tools that are designed to make life and work easier.
Look at Zoom. At the height of the pandemic, people around the world opened a Zoom account to stay in touch with family, friends, associates, and clients. Zoom became the go-to choice of businesses to communicate and collaborate with their remote workers.
Within a few months, other tech companies came up with their own audio-video conferencing platform.
The tools you have in place today might be rendered obsolete by the latest apps coming out tomorrow. When you’re working with a remote team, efficiency is a primary factor for its success.
However, don’t completely overhaul your existing tech profile. Like all online tools, there’s a learning curve to respect. It will take time to be proficient with its features.
Start out with one new tool. Get used to it and see how it complements the other tools in the system. Track its performance and how the rest of the telecommuters are progressing with it.
During the 2014 Global Leadership Summit in London, 34% of the attending companies said that they expect 50% of their workforce to work remotely by 2020.
Telecommuting was the direction businesses were headed to – the pandemic just sped it up. Setting up a telecommuting program in your company is a good way to protect your business from uncertainties in the future.
Start out by crafting a telecommuter policy. Don’t expect it to be fool-proof. A good first step would be to confer with HR professionals and a lawyer to make sure everything is in accordance with local state regulations.
Then, evaluate your current manpower roster. You might also want to hire freelancers for your telecommuting team. This could work and make the process easier because freelancers are experienced, remote workers.
They have the equipment, the expertise, and depending on the arrangement, you might be able to significantly reduce costs by going with freelancers.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will make mistakes and that’s perfectly fine.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. They are part of the process. Mistakes will expose the weaknesses and flaws in your system so you can improve your telecommuting program.
If you need assistance in setting up your telecommuting team, give us a call. We have experience qualifying, selecting, and managing remote talent and our team has generated positive results for our clients.
Let’s have a quick call and get your business moving online right away!
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