6 Keys for Creating Strong Telecommuting Programs

By Robert Half June 20, 2018 at 5:53pm

Telecommuting programs are growing in popularity across Canada. A well-planned work-from-home program can help companies increase overall productivity and promotes greater job satisfaction among your team, boosting your retention efforts.

And that's not all. It can also help you hire. In a Robert Half survey, 65 per cent of Canadian professionals surveyed said the ability to telecommute at least some of the time would increase their likelihood of taking a job.

A successful off-site work policy requires careful planning and implementation. Before you allow your employees to work remotely, consider these six tips for effective telecommuting programs.

1. Contact your legal experts

Before you begin offering employees the chance to work from home, make sure your program won’t become a legal minefield. Issues to consider include complications with workers' compensation matters and provincial overtime regulations, as well as the matter of individual responsibility for company property used offsite. Legal counsel should review any telecommuting programs to make sure the company stays in compliance with employment laws.

2. Let managers have their say

While general approval of a telecommuting plan for your company must come from business owners or upper management, individual supervisors should play a role in designing the specifics. Managers know which job functions will be unaffected if people telecommute, and they are in the best position to customize the program for their teams.

3. Know what you want

Clear employee eligibility guidelines are essential to avoiding misunderstandings or claims of favouritism about who can telecommute. Here are some baseline considerations:

  • Can the job be performed remotely with little disruption to existing standards and deadlines?
  • Which roles are best suited for independent work?
  • What experience level is required for an employee to be considered for a work-from-home option?
  • How many days per week can people in certain jobs telecommute? Will this vary depending on seniority or other standards?

4. Stick to the rules

Managing telecommuters can be tricky. If you have close relationships with your employees, you may find it hard not to bend the rules. Maybe an outstanding team member wants to work from home, but her job is not ideal for telecommuting. As tempting as it may be to make an exception for a strong contributor, stick to the rules to maintain consistency and avoid any show of favouritism. 

5. Be social

Make sure you help remote employees feel like they're part of the team. Set a policy for using Skype or FaceTime to bring telecommuting staff into key meetings. Recommend that they come into the office periodically. Make an extra effort to keep those who work from home in the loop on company and department news, especially if they spend a significant amount of time off-site.

6. Be fair to on-site employees

A final key to a successful telecommuting program is making sure those who work on-site are treated equitably. It can feel like a bum deal to be the employee left to handle problems that can't be performed remotely by telecommuting coworkers. Remember that it's not the job of those who work at the office to cover for those who don't. Make sure those allowed to telecommute can do their full jobs off-site instead of disproportionately relying on others. 

Be sure to update your telecommuting policy periodically. Over time, you may find that additional groups of employees can be offered this work option or that your guidelines need modification. Also, make sure that your policies continue to be logically keyed to the nature and the demands of your business.

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