The typical telecommuter, according to figures from a recent Census Bureau survey, is 49 years old (male or female), has a college degree and makes a little less than 60K per year. That’s a far cry from the days when telecommuters were believed to be mothers with small children or twenty-somethings slapping together projects on a laptop at Starbucks.
The telecommuting craze looks to be intensifying. A human resources study from 2013 revealed that more companies planned to offer telecommuting to employees in 2014 than any other workplace perk.
With the craze, of course, come the pitfalls. Here are a few to avoid:
Forget About Electronic Monitoring – Measuring keystrokes or time spent online via a remote measuring program only creates more stress for everyone. The whole idea of telecommuting is to encourage better and more efficient results, while also boosting employee morale and loyalty. Stationing Big Brother over employees’ shoulders, even virtually, runs counter to those goals.
Plan, Prepare and Train – Expecting employees to sync with a telecommuting program without first establishing procedures, guidelines and communication principles is a recipe for disaster – both for the telecommuters and their in-office colleagues. Implementing a new program is stressful enough; implementing it prematurely is simply counter-productive.
Consider Both Sides – It is hardly fair to give a loose set of reins to telecommuters while expecting those still in the office to hold to a different standard. Good planning and preparation are essential to a healthy workplace attitude as well as to a solid job performance.
Keep It Transparent – The last thing people want to find out is that a colleague who appears to be increasingly “out of the office” has, unbeknownst to any of them, been given the green light to work more hours from home (or from Starbuck’s). Maintain the essentials of the program out in the open.
Problem Children – No, not those who might occasionally be heard over the speakerphone while an employee participates in a meeting from home. Problem employees are not likely to become model employees simply because they’ve suddenly been allowed to work in their pajamas. Unless it’s obvious that a problem employee’s work will clearly benefit from telecommuting, it’s best not to get rid of the problem by allowing them to work from home.
Communication is the key to a successful telecommuting program, with more contact, not less, a high priority, especially early on.