Remote work has grown more popular in recent years, offering greater flexibility and convenience for employees and potential cost savings and increased worker productivity for employers.
However, providing flexible work options may seem like a big risk for small businesses. That's why anyone considering this route needs to have a well-defined plan in place before jumping in.
If you're thinking of offering telecommuting as an option, here are five tips to help you create an effective policy.
1. Have the proper technology in place.
Open communication with remote workers is an essential part of any successful flexible policy. Without face-to-face contact, those in charge must make an effort to touch base more frequently and communicate priorities, goals, and deadlines with their direct reports.
Invest in communication tools that are designed specifically for remote work. Traditional email and phone calls are still valuable tools, but instant chat software, secure document sharing and even web conferencing, like Skype or Google Hangouts, that allow for some face time are also beneficial. Not only do you want your employees to continue performing well, but you also want them to feel like they are still part of the team.
2. Set specific and clear guidelines.
Some owners are hesitant about flexible work schedules due to the potential for employees to take advantage of the situation. Employees may say they are working, but without guidelines and checkpoints, they can't be held accountable. It is your responsibility to communicate your needs and expectations.
Write down your policy and add it to your employee handbook. That way, everyone has access to the information and is responsible for following the guidelines. Include how you are going to track time, how you are going to evaluate their success, how they should communicate with you, what metrics you will use, and what the requirement is for daily availability.
It is also essential to include policies on caregiving. One commonly held idea is that remote workers can take care of children or elderly dependents while working, which can lead to a decrease in productivity. Make sure you address whether or not you will allow your employees to be part-time caretakers in your written guidelines to avoid future issues.
Having your policy documented and visible to your team will set your employees up for success. Providing clear direction and crafting your strategy to be results-driven will prevent people from taking advantage of this benefit.
3. Test the policy with a small group.
Not all jobs are conducive to remote work. It's wise to evaluate each employee or position to see whose work or personality is suited for telecommuting. Once you have identified a few members who are best suited for it, launch a pilot program.
Instead of giving your whole office access to remote work, which could result in chaos, allowing a few members to test it will be beneficial. You can edit your policy based on the test and see what works and what doesn't on a small scale.
If your test run is successful, slowly introduce the program to the rest of the office. This will prevent a rocky transition and allow you to make tweaks along the way.
4. Educate your entire staff, not just the ones using the policy.
Remote work is a two-way street. It requires a concentrated effort from the employees not in the office. But the employees who are in the office also need to continually reach out and keep those who are remote in the loop.
Educate your managers on the policy before presenting it to the rest of the team. Ensure that they understand the system will help them to enforce it so you are not solely responsible for the transition. They will shoulder some of the new responsibilities, including these:
- Making sure remote employees are meeting deadlines
- Communicating clearly with remote workers
- Helping offsite employees feel like part of the team
5. Make security a priority.
When some of your employees are working out of their home or in another city, it can be more challenging to keep your data secure. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks, the use of personal computers and the absence of a remote IT department can make it easy for someone to steal your data.
Set security standards when drafting your policy. You can require things like a password-protected internet connection, a work-issued laptop with preinstalled antivirus software, and regular updates of their equipment to prevent breaches. Some IT teams can even log in to computers remotely to perform maintenance and check for at-risk items. Form a security policy that works best for both your business and your remote team.