Preparing to Have Remote Workers

by Marcianne Kuethen
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If you don’t already have some telecommuters on your staff, preparing to have remote workers should be on your radar. With technology continuing to provide avenues for professionals to work from anywhere, employees are coming to expect this freedom as a given, not just a perk.

The global telecommuting trend

“More than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once every week,” announced a report by CNBC. “A study released…by Zug, Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG found that 70 percent of professionals work remotely — a phenomenon known as telecommuting — at least one day a week, while 53 percent work remotely for at least half of the week.”

The benefits of having remote workers

As you’re preparing to have remote workers, you might be pleasantly surprised at the many good things that could come your way. Workflexibility, an organization that exists to promote the idea of flexible work options, shares these 5 proven benefits:

  1. Flexible work options increase productivity. Statistics from various companies have found that work-from-home employees are 20-43% more productive than their in-office counterparts!
  2. Flexible work options reduce turnover. Employers, expect your recruitment and retention to improve when word of mouth spreads about your flexibility. You’ll expand your talent pool and create more satisfied workers who will want to stay.
  3. Flexible work options improve morale. Employees who have workplace flexibility have less stress, lower burnout, higher creativity, and better emotional and physical health.
  4. Flexible work options are eco-friendly. Your workers will reduce climate change as they cut back on daily commutes and business travel. At-home workers also use less electricity, fewer supplies, and less office equipment,
  5. Flexible work options are cost-effective. You’ll likely save money by reducing employee turnover, employee absenteeism, and the amount of office space you need.

What roles are right for remote work

Not all companies should be preparing to have remote workers, however, says Craig Bloem, CEO of FreeLogoServices.com and contributor to Inc.com. “Certain jobs are more conducive to a work-from-home option than others…First, consider the nature of the work and the nature of the interactions involved. Jobs that are relatively ‘siloed,’ and that don’t require significant cross-functional communication, are prime candidates for remote work.”

As examples, Bloem cites sales, copywriting, accounting, PR, data analysis, coding, and social media marketing. Those require fewer and more contained interactions than managerial roles, where daily face-to-face interactions are necessary.

Some cautions about allowing teleworkers

But preparing to have remote workers also means expecting to have to deal with some negatives.

Having a team of both in-office and off-site workers can stir up employee emotions, says Bloem. The best way to manage teleworkers is to focus on their results by setting specific, measurable objectives and timelines that let you evaluate their productivity. Then hold weekly team meetings to let your entire team interact and get everyone up to speed.

There are sticky legal issues to consider, too, says JDSupra.com. “Because the laws affecting telecommuting are constantly evolving, employers should be deliberate when enacting a telecommuting policy and continually revisit it to ensure it is legally compliant.” Here are a few of their recommendations:

  1. Office safety. Did you know that your workers’ comp could be charged if your working-from-home employee trips on a Lego? As their employer, you’re liable “for any injury sustained by his or her employees arising out of and in the course of the employment.” You’ll need to require your teleworkers to keep an obstruction-free workspace (get photos) and make sure it’s as ergonomically set up as an in-office one.
  2. Breaks, timekeeping, and approval. You’ll need to make sure that employees at home are taking their breaks, keeping accurate records of time worked, and not working unapproved overtime. Software that tracks productivity can help.
  3. Business expenses. You are required to reimburse employees for expenses “necessarily incurred” in their employment. Most employers reimburse a given expense or equip the employee with whatever is needed so the worker doesn’t incur the expense in the first place. You’ll need to make sure your policy spells out what expenses are reimbursable, and tells how to submit reimbursement requests for reimbursement of other required business expenses.

Preparing to Have Remote Workers

It’s obvious that, for many employers, allowing employees to work remotely is becoming necessary and surprisingly beneficial. Not all roles are right for telecommuting, but if you do open up this option, make sure you establish a telecommuting policy that is legally compliant. Learning to manage off-site workers may be an adjustment, but that burden should pale in comparison to the increased productivity, higher morale, and overall happiness of your workers as they gain the flexibility they desire to live more balanced lives.

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