Thousands of New Jersey Transit riders will have their commutes severely disrupted this summer while Amtrak does work on its tracks. That’s on top of an average commute time that’s the third highest of any state in the nation, and the every-day road construction and disruptions that make the morning and evening drives ever more aggravating
It’s safe to say that more employees wouldn’t mind working so much if they didn’t have to go to work in the first place. Naturally, remote work arrangements are a popular perk among employees, and technology makes it increasingly more feasible. Whether it’s telecommuting or just working from home some of the time, if it’s done right, it can boost morale, increases efficiency and may even cut your overhead costs.
But how do you know if it’s going to work for your business?
Working from home is an idea that’s been around long enough for businesses to know what the pitfalls are and how to avoid them. Rashaad Bajwa, president/CEO of Domain Computer Services, has set up or consulted on telecommuting systems for hundreds of companies.
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“You need to decide if your company and staff can handle telecommuting or a distributed workforce,” Bajwa says. “Remote work can be a boon to employee retention, morale and productivity. However, it can also backfire if you don’t have a well thought out plan. Highly effective organizations have the right tools, technologies and policies to execute and then monitor effectiveness of their remote work plan.”
Before getting into the technical details of how to go about it, Bajwa says you should ask yourself these five questions.
- Can the technology you need to get your work done be made available from home?
For the work to be done properly, the worker needs the right tools. Not every job can be done from home, so you have to decide if moving the work to the workers possible.
Make sure you write down all of the different tasks that you need the employee to accomplish and then list the equipment or supplies they will need to carry them out. Then you will be able to tell if it’s feasible to work remotely. And remember, telecommuting is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If some of an employee’s tasks require them to be at your workplace, just make it part of the arrangement.
- Is the nature of your work such that how much work gets done is easily measurable?
Just because telecommuting is technically feasible, it doesn’t mean it’s practical. Does it involve well-defined tasks, clear metrics, billable hours, and firm project deadlines? If so, then keeping staff accountable should be easy. In fact, keeping them accountable for their output might be more productive than just keeping them accountable for showing up to an office.
However if work is more fluid, ad hoc or lacks easy ways to measure productivity, then keeping tabs on performance can be more difficult.
- What does office or work space cost at your company?
Telecommuting can offer savings on rent and office space, so make sure you consider those savings when deciding if telecommuting makes sense, especially if your company is growing.
- Where do your employees live?
If everyone lives in the same town with an easy commute, then telecommuting might be more trouble than its worth. However if you live in a congested area or have a long commute the time and savings of telecommuting may be dramatic.
- Can your staff manage themselves effectively without daily oversight?
This one is self-evident, and only you as the manager can tell. It could be that they’re not mature enough, or it could just be the nature of the work, but before you invest in a telecommuting arrangement, try to imagine your people—not anyone else’s—working independently. Are they self-motivated and trustworthy enough to give you a full day’s work?