So gas prices have gone down a bit — currently in the $3.50 to $3.80 range in my area — but that’s no excuse for getting lax in your small business about looking for ways to be more efficient and add more cash to your bottom line. One of the best things you can do is enable your staff to telecommute. Telecommuting has so many benefits to both your company and your staff — improved morale, more engaged employees, increased productivity, and contributing to the “greenness” of the environment to name a few.
But telecommuting is not for everyone. And if you want to get the results you expect, some planning is in order. A great resource for you to check out is Telework. This government provided resource will at least get you started. For other good resources, just search on telecommuting and you’ll find a wealth of information.
And for some help from small business owners just like you, Jason Zickerman, president and COO of The Alternative Board is an incredible resource with 3,000 small and mid-sized business owners to tap into regarding telecommuting challenges. Zickerman offers the following five common overlooked issues that can be detrimental to your telecommuting program.
- Train Or Pain: Allow the time for employees to partake in adequate telecommuting training (orientation). Employees and their supervisors need to understand the relevant policies, procedures, and other factors associated with successful operation of telecommuting. Without such understanding, unnecessary problems can occur which will strain the operation of the program.
- “It’s Not Fair!”: Be aware that allowing telecommuting to inconvenience and/or unfairly burden non-participating employees could develop into a major headache for your management team. Inadequate planning and preparation can lead to a situation which causes both morale and job performance problems. Employers must be sensitive to the employee relations aspects the telecommuting program, and its holistic effects on all employees.
- The “D” Word: Discrimination, the word strikes fear into the hearts of business owners across the US. However as with any benefit, if it’s given to some employees and not others, there’s always a chance someone might claim discrimination. Before rolling out a telecommuting program, employers should have rules on who’s eligible based on objective criteria — for example, position type, department, seniority, performance, attendance records, etc.
- Beware Of Covert Operations: Not adequately informing co-workers regarding the telecommuter’s office schedule and/or attempting to hide the program from co-workers is a major faux pas that will come back to bite you. Being transparent with scheduling eliminates the potential for confusion, lost productivity, and animosity.
- Don’t Bench Your Best Player: Just because your star employee isn’t in the office everyday, doesn’t mean he/she should be discounted. Employers must ensure that all telecommuters are duly considered for promotional opportunities, special projects, and bonuses. Employers must develop ways to measure their performance against those employees who come in to the office on a daily basis, and reward them appropriately.
And remember, whether your workers are telecommuting or have a physical presence at your business, the right way to measure their contribution is based on outcomes — what they produce, not tasks they check off a list. Since you’re considering the telecommuting option, it would be a good idea for you to take a look at making sure your company has a results only work environment (ROWE) too.
What do you think? Do you have other advice? Please share by leaving a comment below.