For every worker who wants the corner office, there is a handful more who would rather work from home. Owners of small and mid-sized businesses, in particular, are now seeing the many perks that a successful telecommuting program yields. And more business leaders are favoring this option for some very good reasons including increased productivity, cost-efficiencies and employee preference.
But realizing these benefits takes a thoughtful approach to building a productive program that works long term. The following step-by-step guide can assist you wherever you are in your process, whether you’re looking to build a telecommuting program from the ground up or tighten up certain aspects of your company’s existing strategy:
Step #1: Have a Vision – and Keep Your Employees’ Needs in Mind
When visualizing your telecommuting program and what you want from it, it’s important to balance the needs of the company with the needs of your employees. Author Susan Cain believes that telecommuting helps maximize employees’ working potential based on their nature and personality. A quality telecommuting policy stimulates remote workers to “dictate their own working terms,” which makes them more committed to what they are doing.
Collect your thoughts before diving in headfirst. Certainly keep such things as costs, productivity and potential pain points in mind when visualizing your program. But also remember who is at the heart of it all – your employees.
Step #2: Set Organizational Expectations
When you know what you want to accomplish, establish buy-in across the organization to take your telecommuting program from a vision to a business reality. Be candid with employees, set expectations and get them invested in the new program:
- Educate your employees on the full scope of this new program; explain the incentives driving it, the goals and objectives of this change and why it is needed. And ask for their input and feedback.
- Decide who will pioneer this movement. Identify which employees will trial your telecommuting program and which may fit into your program down the road.
- Give your in-office employees the same attention that you do your telecommuters. You don’t want any employees feeling undermined once you roll out your program.
Step #3: Commit to Superior Tools and Technologies
From capable computers and software to the business phone solution to keep teleworking employees synched with the office – you must choose your technology wisely. Otherwise, you risk putting your telecommuting professionals at a disadvantage. Vonage Business Solutions’ mobile tools, for example, help support telecommuting strategies with:
- Mobile apps: Vonage Business Mobile apps are invaluable for remote workers, giving them access to the full functionality of their desk phones anytime, anywhere. And caller ID registers each outbound call as originating from the main office. Apps are available for Android and iOS.
- Mobile-friendly features: Several Vonage features in particular make the teleworking experience seamless and very productive, such as Never Miss a Call, Call Conference and Voicemail to Email to name a few.
- Work from anywhere capabilities: Some employees may prefer to bring their desk phone home, and why not? The Vonage system is plug & play, so they can simply plug into their home Internet and get all the functionality they have in the main office.
Step #4: Build Trust into the Program
Successful telecommuting programs heavily rely on the trust that management puts in their workers, a sentiment expressed by Cindy Auten in a recent interview with NPR. Whether you have an employee who only works from home once a week, or one who teleworks full time, establishing the expectation of productivity and trust is essential. Ask yourself:
- How often will your at-home employees need to be in-office for such things as training, team meetings and site visits?
- Will your telecommuters respect working hours and ensure that home obligations don’t conflict with work duties?
The goal at hand is not to micromanage telecommuters but to give them autonomy to work to their full potential.
Step #5: Benchmark Progress
Once you set everything in motion, track and measure the progress made to ensure the practicality of your program. Remember to:
- Set the precedence for effective and constant communication. You need to hear how things are going and you need to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
- Establish measurable criteria for success. For example, how many more calls do employees answer at-home compared to in-office? How many projects can be completed this week?
- Celebrate successes from the smallest of wins to the greatest of triumphs.
- Hold everyone accountable, not just your telecommuters. With a collaborative team, outcomes can just as easily be due to the involvement of execs or decision makers.
Carefully building or improving your telecommuting program can be an empowering initiative for the future of the organization. And you’ll know you’ve successfully built an “exceptional telecommuting program” when your employees are happy, their efforts are productive, your customers remain content and the business thrives.
About Dave Morris
Dave is a content strategist and writer at Vonage Business Solutions, working with teams across the company to build communication programs that enable our customers and assist our prospects. He enjoys living in Atlanta and is an avid gardener, restaurant enthusiast and live music fan.
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