According to the Society for Human Resource Management, studies suggest that workers who telecommute may be more productive than their in-office colleagues. One SHRM article notes that approximately 50 percent of U.S. managers telecommute sometimes, and that telecommuting roles increased 80 percent between 2005 and 2013. While working remotely may offer significant work/life balance opportunities to employees, it's important that businesses think strategically about how best to develop and manage a remote workforce. Here are four factors that should be considered for a company's remote employee work plan.
Establish Clear Parameters for Telecommuting
Successfully allowing your staff to telecommute or work remotely starts with establishing clear parameters. Are you allowing certain positions to work remotely 100 percent of the time, or are you enabling more flexible scheduling where staff can work from home one or two days a week? Some companies choose to handle this on a case-by-case basis, which can become complex to manage over time. Set clear guidelines on what telecommuting arrangements you will consider, what positions may be eligible for these opportunities, and general expectations around workflow and performance.
Promote Culture and Information Sharing
One of the core benefits of having your team in a shared office space is the ability to more easily transmit culture and knowledge. When your team is dispersed, it's important to have a clear plan for promoting culture, disseminating knowledge and communicating values. Tools such as an employee handbook, vision statement, and regular communications from leaders can help convey that information. It may also be important to have regular team meetings as well as companywide discussions and forums. Many firms have found that pairing telecommuting employees with more experienced staff in a mentor relationship is another strategy for fostering meaningful connections between employees.
Invest in Collaboration Technologies
The right technology systems can be essential for managing a remote workforce. From hardware investments like laptops, smartphones, and tablets to cloud-based software systems that allow workers to access critical information on the go, your IT strategy may need to evolve. Remote workers require easy access to mission-critical systems. Collaboration tools can make it possible to have conference calls, host webinars, work on documents simultaneously, engage in video chat, and participate in a way that can help increase productivity and build relationships.
Create the Right Human Capital Management Infrastructure
Companies can take a variety of steps from an HR perspective to improve their ability to manage and serve a remote workforce. Cloud-based HR software can give employees self-service access to a range of different applications. Time and attendance reporting, benefits enrollment, information management, and other aspects of a business need to be accessible to staff working outside the office. A flexible human capital management infrastructure can make it easier to successfully serve a remote workforce, while potentially delivering an outstanding HR experience.
Remote workforces offer benefits for employees and employers alike. Staff can have the flexibility to work from home and can be more productive by eliminating commute times. Businesses can reduce costs and have access to on-demand talent without necessarily employing full-time staff. Maximizing these benefits requires a clear strategy, the right infrastructure, and a close eye on both culture and human resource management.