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With the technology and connectivity innovations of the past decade, many jobs can now be done from anywhere. In-person meetings and communication remain fundamental to most projects, but that shouldn’t prevent companies from allowing employees to work from home.
The benefits are numerous. In addition to increased efficiency, your personnel can maintain a better work/life balance and waste less time commuting. Modern organizations realize that a happy employee is a more productive employee, and permitting them to complete their duties on their own schedule can also be a boon to retention. If all your competitors are allowing remote work and you don’t, it’s a competitive disadvantage.
Understandably, many employers have strong reservations regarding accountability, tracking and other human resources concerns. The following considerations can help any company create and implement an effective remote work policy that works for all parties:
All work-from-home arrangements should start on a provisional basis. Whether a new hire is going to work remotely full time or an employee is requesting two days per week out of the office, begin by having them sign an agreement that will be reviewed after a trial period is over.
Generally, three months will make the most sense although a duration as short as a month could be appropriate in certain situations. As outlined in the form, assess their performance during this time — both in terms of deliverables and how their physical absence affects their department — and then decide if work from home makes sense on an ongoing basis.
Don’t Be Overly Restrictive
In the past, employers were generally more willing to show flexibility for employees with child or parent care obligations. In other cases, the allowance could be based upon distance from the office or other factors. While these are good-faith reasons to offer remote working privileges, they can also breed resentment. A 25-year-old single woman, for example, may rightly feel that her reasons for wanting to work from home are just as valid as anyone else’s.
While exceptions can exist, the best policy is one that treats everyone the same and respects the basis for their request rather than looking to undermine their priorities. Determinations should be based upon productivity and responsiveness rather than extenuating circumstances that tug on an HR representatives heartstrings.
Provide Needed Tools
Whether in the office or working remotely, employees must always have the tools they need to stay connected no matter where they are. Set up their laptop or home computer with a VPN that allows them to securely connect to the company server. Be sure to address security issues and remind them that working from places like cafes or airports can make them more vulnerable to hackers.
For on-the-go connectivity, be sure to also provide workers with a phone that has a flat-rate plan offering a robust 4G LTE network, like those from T-Mobile. Such provisions empower employees by giving them free Wi-Fi on any Gogo-equipped flight and unlimited data wherever they travel.
Set Productivity Expectations
Assessing workplace performance is difficult even when a worker is sitting in a cubicle. But given the stigma that remote working still has, it’s important to set protocols for gauging performance. Ideally, this will be done with some quantitative metrics that can be set based upon the person’s past history. If their main responsibilities surround filing a specific number of reports, bringing in a number of leads or hitting sales goals, then this will be simple.
If their duties are more related to softer objectives, it won’t come as naturally. But even in such instances, expectations, perhaps response times or ability to remain as engaged with co-workers, still need to be clear. The goal is to maintain — or even enhance — productivity, so any processes working toward that goal are in the best interest of everyone.