To make telecommuting work, employers must set rules. The rules should be the same for remote employees and office employees. Set reasonable and realistic productivity goals for both employee groups. Handle attendance, discipline and discharge identically.
First, determine which employees are most likely to succeed working away from an office setting.
- It’s best to start with present performance levels. An employee who isn’t a high performer already may not be the best candidate.
- Does the worker need careful supervision and management? That can be a big problem.
- Those considered for remote work should also already be disciplined and organized.
- Decide whether remote employees will work away from the office every day, most days or occasionally.
Second, list minimum physical requirement for teleworking. These should include:
- Quiet place in the home – specify whether a separate office or multi-use space;
- State whether a co-working space is an option. These are spaces dedicated to freelancers and telecommuters, often providing desk or office space, meeting rooms and Internet access. National chains providing co-work space include Regus and WeWork but there are also numerous independent locations.
- Cafes, libraries and bookstores are other potential locations, though less reliable and less secure telecommuting options.
Third, set the rules for the remote workday:
- Will there be set office hours? When does work start and end? Can remote employees split their day?
- What about face-to-face time? How often will remote employees come to the office? Who pays if the office is not within normal commuting distances?
Fourth, how will the technology needed to work from home be handled?
- Will you set technology needs and standards? What type of Internet connection and speed will the remote employee need? Who provides tech support and manages repairs and troubleshooting?
- What technology will managers and supervisors need to track time, projects and productivity? And how will they handle time-keeping and overtime for remote employees who are not exempt?
Fifth, set rules for childcare and pets. Here are some suggested approaches:
- Infants and toddlers: New parents sometimes think they can work and handle new family members. Best bet is to nix this from the beginning – it’s not realistic. Require childcare arrangements during core hours.
- School age children: Institute core hours that match school hours and allow earlier/later work to make up for hourly remote employees. For exempt remote employees, more flexibility may be OK – if you see projects and goals being met.
- Pets: As with children, set reasonable pet rules for the telecommuting employee. For example, if the employee will participate remotely in meetings, make sure that pets won’t interfere.