Telecommuting: Avoid the drive without driving your manager crazy

To some managers, letting employees work from home seems crazy. They wonder, How can you supervise people you don’t see? But it’s becoming more and more common.

Granted, there are a lot of jobs where working from home isn’t appropriate. It helps to let go of all-or-nothing thinking. A cook can’t plate an order from home but she might be able to check inventory and order supplies. You probably already have employees who travel for business. If you’re clear about outcomes, you shouldn’t worry about when or where they work.

In fact, it’s a growing trend. According to Global Workplace Analytics, based on 2018 data:

  • Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed. 

  • 4.3 million employees (3.2% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.

Allowing telecommuting can help you attract and retain talent and may save overhead costs (ie, if you need less office space). 

Both anecdotal evidence and scientific research support the notion that people who are granted work flexibility see a boost in productivity. For example, in statistics compiled by Global Workplace Analytics, JD Edwards teleworkers were shown to be 20-25 percent more productive than their office colleagues. And American Express employees who worked from home were 43 percent more productive than workers in the office.

That’s partially because people are happier and healthier when they have some control over their work lives. (Source)

But it can also result in isolation. But not every employee is cut out for it or has the home life to support it. This article reviews 10 reasons someone might not be a good fit, written by a person who has been a telecommuter, off and on, for over twenty years. 

SHRM, the respected human resources professional association, provides a template for a Telecommuting Policy and Procedure. It recommends in part:

  • Have a trial period which can be cancelled anytime by either the employee or employer

  • Set eligibility criteria, for example, time with the company, proven performance.

  • Create a way to communicate regularly, not only with the manager but also with coworkers.

  • Make sure the employee has what they will need, including appropriate equipment, bandwidth, security of sensitive information.

  • Be sure the arrangement lives up to Fair Labor Standards like overtime pay