Setting up a telecommuting solution for your business that works
Have you been weighing the pros and cons of allowing some of your employees to work remotely from their home offices (or coffee shops or cars)? It’s estimated that as much as 43 percent of the American workforce works from home at least part of the time. But have you given any thought to how your small business would function if your employees were not physically present?
Here are some tips for setting up a telecommuting solution that will work for both you and your workers:
Write it down. You’ll need a policy to address such questions as who is eligible and who can approve work-from-home requests; how many hours or days per week an employee can work from home; who will provide the electronic equipment and how cybersecurity will be handled; how the team will communicate and whether the employee will also need child or elder care for those who share the home. This article has some suggestions for such a policy.
Communication strategy. Unclear or infrequent communication can doom a work-from-home situation. To prevent miscommunication, establish a clear protocol for phone, video conference, email and chat communications. Open yourself up to feedback from your employees in case something isn’t working, and consider setting up an modifiable meetings calendar, if you haven’t already.
Organization. A lack of organization seems particularly common among remotely managed teams, because managers and co-workers can’t always ask someone a question right away. Sometimes, you’ll have to wait several hours for a response or you’ll have to deal with other concerns like poor online connectivity for a crucial member of the team. To avoid going off the rails when it comes to productive organizational strategies, it’s important to schedule regular check-ins with your team (perhaps one to two times per week or month).
Expectations. To prevent communication problems and to stay as organized as possible, some managers go to the extreme of expecting their teams to stay connected to their phones and/or email nearly 24/7. This simply isn’t feasible or fair. Alternatively, you should create deadlines based on days instead of specific times and ask your teams to check their email inboxes when they start their workday and just before they finish up at the end of the day. That way, they can make sure there aren’t any fires to extinguish before they go offline for the evening.
Personal connections. It’s hard to feel close and connected to your colleagues when you don’t see their faces or hear their voices on a regular basis. To overcome issues related to interpersonal ambivalence among your remote team, create opportunities for them to bond from afar. This might include fun end-of-week emails with inspirational quotes, recaps of notable achievements from the past week, and words of encouragement. You also could start recognizing outstanding employees on a regular basis and include a personal bio in your email so others can get to know more about their coworkers.