Now more than ever, employees are choosing to work remotely as opposed to working within the traditional office setting. According to an Ispos poll for Reuters, 17% of workers telecommute – that’s one in five workers globally. Still, there’s a widespread belief that people who work from home tend to slack off, waste time, and aren’t very focused. As a remote worker myself, I tend to disagree. Thankfully, I’m not the only one, and there’s enough research to back up the claim that I’m obviously partial towards. According to a Stanford Research study, telecommuters tend to work harder and are more productive than office workers. They also have higher job satisfaction, since they are able to work from an environment that suits them best. With this in mind, it seems as though working remotely is a win-win situation, for both employers and employees. Yet, there are certain things that may hinder the wonderful process that is telecommuting. Even I, with my slightly biased opinion fully agree with the fact that employers need to consider a number of things before letting their employees work remotely. Here are some of the questions employers should ask and have answers to, before putting in place a telecommuting policy:

Can the role be carried out remotely?

What kind of role is suitable for remote working? Does the employee’s role require a lot of personal interaction, special equipment usage or hands-on creation? If so, it may not be able to be completely carried out from a remote location. This also depends on the type of company and its culture – is there a lot of interdepartmental interaction? In these cases, a strong communication strategy must be put in place to ensure that remote working is successful – but more about that later.

Who is providing the equipment?

Would you, as the employer, be providing your employees with the equipment they need to work effectively? If, so, it is important to put into a place a policy on how to maintain the equipment, and what this equipment can be used for. Here’s a simple example: if you are providing your employee with a computer/laptop to for remote working purposes, what are the parameters for usage of that computer? Can the employee use it for personal purposes, such as to check Facebook, or personal browsing? While these things are often not considered in a formal workplace setting, it is important to have a policy that explains equipment usage and maintenance to avoid any discrepancies in the future. On the other, hand, if your employee is allowed to use his or her own equipment, device security  must be looked into. It is critical to make sure your employee’s device is secured, especially if your business is one that deals with a lot of sensitive information.

How will communication occur?

Communication methods can only be perfected through “trial and error”. Sara Sutton Fell, of, where telecommuting is the norm, would agree with this. While there are various programs out there that allow you to communicate effectively over various locations, time difference, etc. it all boils down to what works best between employer and employee. Options include downloading apps like Whatsapp Messenger and Skype on all platforms (phone, laptop, computer). These help in providing constant connectivity, and allow for both employers and employees to be reached immediately in case of time sensitive or urgent work matters.

How will progress be tracked?

Trust is a critical element when it comes to tracking progress. As an employer, you must have a certain level of trust in the work ethic of your telecommuting employees.  As I mentioned above, it’s easy for employers to think that remote workers are more often slacking off than not, and this is where trust comes into play. Sure, there are more distractions when working from home, but there is also a higher level of responsibility that leads to employees working hard. My manager and I came to the agreement that I would email him on a daily basis; with a brief summary of the tasks I accomplished that day. We also Skype every week, and set up convenient talking times for reviews, client discussions and more. The tools to track time and progress are aplenty – it just a matter of getting used to these sort of alternative modes.

Can remote workers be included in company culture?

It is possible, albeit a lot harder to make remote employees feel as though they are active part of community culture. Due to not being able to interact on a personal basis with other employees regularly, telecommuters are often not able to bond deeply with other employees. This is not to say that they are completely left out of company culture. In my case, I feel quite “included” as a remote employee due to regular calls, chats with co-workers and being able to wave hello to my team over video conferences – it’s the small things that matter! Other way’s to make sure telecommuters are able to assimilate into company culture are to invite them to office events, special celebrations etc. if they are within driving distance. Video calls are crucial, as talking to someone while being able to hear and see them develops a more comfortable relationship than simply communicating over text and email. Sending greeting cards for Christmas and/or your employees’ birthday is small but great way to make them feel appreciated, and this appreciation is sure to benefit you in the long run.

What about insurance, tax or worker’s compensation?

Insurance policies may differ in terms of remote employees. As an employer, you may need to ensure that your employees have a homeowners’ insurance policy that covers a part of their home as an office. This would depend on the type of equipment your employee is using, and who is providing it. Additionally, if your employee is working overseas, insurance policies might differ. Often, your overseas employee may be ineligible for the basic insurance coverage the company uses within the US. Similarly, overseas remote employees may be eligible for tax deductions depending on the law. Your Finance office will have to consider aspects like FACTA, foreign currency deposits, and more, to make sure that employees’ salaries are deposited appropriately. Worker’s Compensation must be outlined in the remote working policy that you put together. It must be made clear that worker’s comp only applies when telecommuters are injured performing work-related activities on work-time. This is also why it is important to have good time tracking measures in place.

What are termination procedures?

Termination, of firing an employee is difficult in any situation. Termination procedures for remote workers will involve slightly different elements, as opposed to regular in-office termination. First off, since you can’t monitor your telecommuting employees 24/7, you need to think about what circumstances will need to employment termination. Secondly, since you may not always be able to terminate remote employment in person, you will have to figure out the best way to do so, that suits both you and your employee. Some say breaking up is easier over the phone than in person – maybe the same is true for firing an employee, though I wouldn’t know. Finally, as an employer, you need to consider equipment return, cancelling email address and data removal in the event of remote employment termination. Sometimes, a home inspection may be necessary. For all this, you absolutely must have a contracted process to follow.

Ultimately, there is not one proven formula in regards to the best ways to telecommute, for both employer and employee. After what seems like a lot of hit and miss, you will find a functioning system that works well for both you and your remote working employees, hopefully leading to increased productivity and greater job satisfaction!

Akshata MehtaAkshata Mehta is a 23-year old who is healthily obsessed (or so she believes) with all sorts of planning and management. As a certified scuba diver, she has had the privilege to be a part of some exciting adventures. In her spare time, she writes about travel, food, and her daily doings on her blog The Happy Ranter.

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