Yesterday, I discussed the rise of teleworking policies, which allow employees to work from home or any other remote location, throughout the private and public sector. It’s no surprise that these policies are becoming more popular, due to the flexibility they offer to employees, their benefits for recruiting and retaining high-performing employees, and their ability to improve work-life balance. Some companies are actually reducing their footprint (and operating costs) by eliminating their brick and mortar presence through a 100% remote workforce, others offer it only as a scheduled or situational benefit.
Situational telework typically refers to working remotely due to infrequent inclement weather or transportation issues, but it also includes allowing certain employees who are unable to report to the organization’s location due to their unique personal circumstances to work remotely. This can benefit organizations by allowing them to retain talented workers they might otherwise lose. For example, at FMG, we have had several high-performing employees who switched to near-full-time teleworking rather than leaving our organization due to a personal circumstance (e.g., moving for a spouse’s job, health reasons).
Taking into account the many different ways that our employees telework (i.e., scheduled or situational), we’ve made major changes to our technology and policies that have allowed for a smooth transition to teleworking. Among the changes that we have made are the following teleworking best practices:
- Create and share teleworking procedures. Clearly communicate organizational procedures for teleworking by setting well defined expectations and putting them into guides or holding trainings. Ensure that employees understand and agree to these procedures by having them sign a teleworking agreement and discussing any concerns.
- Implement a workplace online chat program. This allows for frequent communication and the accountability of being online and available when it’s needed. We use Trillian, but there are many options on the market that will meet security and computing guidelines at even the largest agencies.
- Increase your teleconference capabilities. When we moved to this new teleworking policy, it was clear that we needed a videoconferencing tool. As a result, we added Zoom Software as a means for employees to meet instantaneously via web on their laptops. This works exceptionally well when avoiding the dreaded 'you go, no you go, sorry for interrupting' conference call conversations. Side note: If you haven’t seen the YouTube video 'Conference Call in Real Life' – it’s worth a few minutes.
- Create a telework schedule on a shared calendar. And make sure employees use it! This ensures that employees know when they can telework and when other employees are teleworking. We have a dedicated Outlook calendar where employees record their weekly telework schedule – when trying to schedule meetings or connect, it’s really helpful.
- Check in. Set standards for how frequently team members should be communicating and the modes of communication that they should use.
- Technical troubleshooting. Ensure that teleworkers know whom to contact if there is a technical issue while working remotely. Technical issues can arise at the office, but remotely they are far more detrimental to productivity.
- Regular meetings and newsletters. Reduce potential feelings of isolation by holding regular staff meetings, sharing developmental opportunities, sending out news bulletins, and holding events that remote employees can attend.
- Be understanding. We all learn, work, and communicate in different ways with the end goal of productivity. Flexibility and support when implementing a company-wide policy is key as you make the transition.
How do you make telecommuting work? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them to make telecommuting work for your employees and your organization?