Offsite work options are becoming an expectation among knowledge workers. Here are some tips to help your company adapt.
A recent study commissioned by the computer networking company Cisco found that six out of 10 people believe that they can work as productively at home as they can in the office. Whether or not your organization is ready to embrace it, telecommuting is a benefit that many knowledge workers have come to expect from employers. In fact, two-thirds of the Cisco survey respondents said they would choose a lower-paying job if access to corporate information enabled them to work where and when they wanted.
The payoff for employers may not be in employee satisfaction alone: In an earlier study of Cisco's own telecommuting employees, about half said they worked between two to three extra hours a day, and one-quarter were putting in four extra hours or more.
Before you sublet your office space, though, craft an effective telecommuting policy and make sure your technology is up to the task:
Establish Clear Guidelines
Your telecommuting policy should take into consideration which jobs can be performed offsite, how many consecutive days an employee may remain outside the office, when he or she may be required to be onsite, and how many employees can telecommute at a time. It should also differentiate between the expenses the company will cover and those you expect your employees to pay for.
Measure Performance, Not Effort
Managing offsite workers requires setting expectations, goals and timelines, and making sure that team members stay on track to achieve them. This might mean creating interim performance guideposts and a reporting system to ensure that all work is thorough and on schedule - no matter how much time is put into it or which hours are worked.
On a related note, your company's telecommuting plan should make clear when your offsite employees must be available for communication. For example, do you expect telecommuting employees to be at their home desks from 8 to 5, mirroring their in-office counterparts? Or do you expect that they will be at their desks from 9 to 2, and available for phone calls outside those hours?
Give Employees the Tools They Need
The technology required for telecommuting needn't be costly or elaborate. In fact, it could be as basic as a telephone and email access. Or, you might gradually move employees eligible for telecommuting to laptops as you go through the normal process of replacing computers. In any case, though, if your employees need access to corporate files, consider setting up a virtual private network or using secure, cloud-based data storage.
Speaking of the cloud, you might also benefit by investigating the many online collaboration tools that can make meeting participation, document editing and data sharing easy, so your teams can collaborate across town as easily as they would across the hall.
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