Telecommuting isn’t for everyone, but for companies with certain types of workers, it’s a way to cut down on overhead and make schedules more flexible, while at the same time increasing the number of hours an employee can be available for work. For workers whose main duties are done in front of a computer or on the phone, it’s a viable option that makes a lot of sense for both the employee and the company.
Still, telecommuting can be done well, or not-so-well. Here’s how to implement a telecommuting program that keeps your company data safe and keeps employees accountable.
Lay out your expectations
A worker might want to telecommute in order to get a more flexible schedule, but that doesn’t mean there’s no schedule at all. Work with each employee individually to lay out the ground rules for the new job situation, including the hours you expect the employee to work and the output you expect him to have. If you don’t already have goals or benchmarks, the employee is expected to meet on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, create them now. Another thing to consider: State specifically in your employee handbook which employees are eligible for telecommuting. You might stipulate specific job titles, as well as requiring employees to work in-office for a number of months first.
Consider your access options
If you’re setting up a telecommuting program for just one person in the company, it might be adequate to install a simple remote desktop system, allowing that single telecommuter to access her work computer from home. If you’re allowing more than one person to telecommute however, the more involved and secure -- as well as more expensive -- way to do it is to set up a virtual private network or “VPN.” This type of system allows the telecommuters to access the office network -- including all of its printers and other hardware and software associated with that network. When you’re shopping around for a VPN program to use, one option is to hire a service to set up the entire system for you.
If you’re planning on doing it yourself or letting your internal IT department handle it, make sure the system you choose offers support for all the types of operating systems your telecommuters use. Your network also needs a static IP address instead of a constantly-changing one like some personal networks have, as well as firewall setup that allows the VPN to function behind the firewall. Since the setup does have multiple factors and can get quite complicated, it might be best to hire a service to handle the details.
Monitor working hours
Some companies check workers’ VPN logs to find out when they’re working; others use task management software such as Asana to monitor the individual tasks people did. Others simply check in with workers on a daily basis and look over their to-do lists to ensure they’re staying on task. Depending on the size of your company and the motivation of your workers, you might have to play around with all of these to find out what works.
Schedule regular check-in times
If you have a regular employee meeting, set up a video conferencing system that allows all telecommuting employees to participate. Options include Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting. Some companies opt to have even the in-house employees sign onto the virtual conferencing system instead of gathering in the conference room, so that telecommuters and in-house workers are all on the same page.
Telecommuting can be a great way to allow workers a little more freedom in their schedules, but it has to work for your company too. By setting up a structured system, you’ll be well on your way to success.