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 Is it time to offer  this employee perk?

 By Michael French


Talented professionals are dedicated to their careers, but they prefer to work for employers that support their efforts to have a fulfilling personal life as well.

Where does your company stand on this issue?

At the top of workers’ wish list is greater flexibility. Of the Canadian office professionals polled for a recent Robert Half survey, 65 per cent said the ability to telecommute would increase their likelihood of accepting a particular job offer. The younger the respondents, the greater their desire to work remotely. A policy that permits telecommuting – either full time or part time – is a winning recruitment and retention strategy. Still, you should understand the pros and cons before making the move.


Benefits of remote work

By getting away from the chatter and interruptions at the office, employees are often better able to focus on their work, which can translate to greater productivity overall. They get to cut out the daily commute on days they are working from home, which saves them time, hassle and expense, and because not every company offers this option, people who take advantage of remote work are unlikely to jump ship, making improved morale another plus. When you allow telecommuting, you’re telling employees you trust them and respect their desire for flexibility and greater work-life balance.

Employers also reap very real benefits. By not having your entire workforce on site every day, you have the opportunity to hire more employees and grow your business without having to rent or purchase a larger workspace. Your talent pool also grows significantly, as you can recruit workers regardless of where they live. Telework also allows you to better accommodate employees with limited mobility and other accessibility needs.


Drawbacks of remote work

Despite all the positives, telecommuting may not be a good fit for everyone. Workers who value face time and the ability to bounce ideas off each other can feel stymied by the isolation that comes from not being in the same place as their colleagues. Others, especially interns and entry-level employees, may not be experienced enough to set their own hours and work without direct supervision.

Certain teams – creative professionals, for example – do better when they collaborate in person rather than via Skype or group chat. Innovation can suffer when the only points of contact are email, instant message or phone.

From an employer’s perspective, there is of course the worry that some workers will abuse this privilege. Going for long lunches, cutting corners and not being available when you need them are all real concerns.


Is remote work right for your company?

Naturally, there are certain jobs that can’t be done remotely. Retail, hospitality, manufacturing and education are some of the fields that require a physical presence or regular in-person interaction.

So, the question isn’t so much whether telework is right for your business, but rather whether it’s right for a particular role. If the majority of someone’s assignments can be done with a computer and a reliable internet connection, then that person should be a good candidate to work from home.


How to implement a successful telecommuting program

Ready to create a telecommuting policy at your company? Here are some tips for a smooth rollout:

Do your due diligence

Consult legal experts to make sure you’re following laws regarding overtime, worker’s compensation and other employment legislation. IT experts can advise on navigating issues around cybersecurity, BYOD (bring your own device) and the off-site use of company property.

Get managers’ feedback

Before you fashion your policy, solicit your company’s management team for their thoughts and concerns. After all, they’ll be the ones to determine which positions and staff members qualify for telework and which do not, so you’ll need their buy-in. Incorporate their recommendations in the company’s telecommuting policy.

Set guidelines

Make it clear to employees and supervisors that participation is voluntary and approvals will be given on a case-by-case basis at the manager’s discretion. Put the agreement in writing so everyone is clear on expectations and limits, including the employer’s right to rescind the perk.

Establish work days and hours

Although telecommuters enjoy flexible scheduling, managers should make clear their expectations regarding general start and finish times. To get the best of both worlds, allow eligible employees to work from home only on a part-time basis. Perhaps set aside one day a week, such as every Wednesday, when all local staff are expected to be onsite for meetings, brainstorms and to improve employee engagement.


Invest in technology

Telecommuters need a laptop, a high-speed internet connection and a headset with microphone for phone/video conferencing. A reliable VPN (virtual private network) is a must if data security is a concern. Cloud-based platforms make it easy for employees to access their work from anywhere, so make the switch if you haven’t done so already.

Telecommuting can be a win-win for everyone, so companies seriously considering implementing this in-demand perk need to do their homework to ensure their business and employees can make the most of it.

Michael French is a regional manager for Robert Half.



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