A few months ago Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made waves when she announced that all remote employees would need to relocate to Yahoo! offices. While Mayer determined that telecommuting wasn't working for Yahoo!, your small business may be a different story.
But how do you decide if telecommuting makes sense for your business in general, and more specifically, if it's right for your employees and their roles?
If you're thinking about allowing employees to telecommute, use these four guidelines to help evaluate if it will be a good fit for your business.
1. Assess the Potential Benefits and Pitfalls
First, you'll need to begin by assessing the broad potential benefits and pitfalls of telecommuting for your business. For instance, telecommuting can produce significant cost-savings in terms of office space, but can make it more challenging to train new recruits and foster a close-knit company culture. Similarly, telecommuting may limit opportunities for spontaneous, face-to-face collaboration, but studies have shown that remote employees are often happier and more productive in their work.
Once you've weighed the basic pros and cons you can drill down and determine whether particular roles within your business are suitable for telecommuting.
2. Understand What Kind of Work Needs to Be Done
Does the work your employees do require that they're available during specific hours or that they use special equipment? Are frequent face-to-face meetings with clients or customers important? Is intensive collaboration essential to employees' jobs, and are the means by which they produce the work together as important as the ends? If so, telecommuting probably won't be a good fit.
However, some work is best performed where distractions such as hallway conversations or endlessly ringing reception phones don't exist. Further, collaboration with fellow co-workers can often be easily supported by video conferencing apps and other web technology.
3. Evaluate Your Employees' Work Styles and Preferences
Some employees may jump at the opportunity to telecommute from home and you'll subsequently see their productivity soar – everybody wins. However, you may find the opposite is true for other employees. Employees who have spouses or children home during the day may actually find that they encounter fewer distractions working in the office. Alternatively, some employees may need or prefer a set schedule and structure for their work day.
Ultimately, telecommuting should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with employee input, and not implemented broadly across the board. What's more, you'll want to make sure you set clear expectations about employees' availability throughout the day, and determine how to quantify their progress and results.
4. Consider How to Build Culture and Promote Teamwork Remotely
The key to developing a successful team of telecommuting employees is to make sure that they don't feel isolated. Simply relying on email to stay in touch might be insufficient, so you’ll want to investigate what kind of technology you can implement within your business to keep everyone connected during the day.
Additionally, you'll need to make special considerations for how you train new employees and introduce them to your company culture and other employees. Open lines of communication, easy and frequent online collaborative work, and occasional face-to-face time can help facilitate this.
Dip a Toe in the Telecommuting Pool First
After considering these guidelines know that your business doesn't need to dive into telecommuting head-first – you can implement it on a limited trial or part-time basis, and if it doesn't work out you can go back to business-as-usual in your office. Of course, you may also discover that you end with happier, healthier and more productive employees and fewer fixed costs for your business.