With the rise of the Internet, and the increase in
affordable bandwidth came a new type of worker, the telecommuter. Available
technologies, in certain cases, have allowed some companies to offer the
ability for certain employees to work from home instead of the office. This can
be not only a benefit for the employee, but also for the company itself. As
more and more employees clamor for the ability to telecommute, it is imperative
for companies to have an in place a viable telecommuting policy. We will look
below at why this is so important.

A better work environment

The benefit of telecommuting for the employee comes from
having a much more relaxed workplace. The need to not show up at the office can
be a huge motivating factor. Not fighting traffic, not needing a dress code, or
fighting restrictive policy’s can make the doing of the actual work you hired
to do (and probably like) a much more enjoyable process.

You can create a workspace in your home that is totally free
of distractions. Unlike the office where the current cubicle culture dictates
that constant interruptions from the phone, conversations, and “Camping Carls” can seep precious hours away from your
productivity, at home you are free to spend your time solely on the tasks you
need to perform. This is beneficial to both the employee and the employer, in
that the employer receives more productivity from the employee, while the
employee has the freedom to create a work environment that suits their specific
needs.

Also, employers can save significant costs by using
telecommuting to limit the office space needed. It can be much more affordable
to provide someone with the tools they need to do their job, than to provide
them with the physical floor space to do the same job. This can also lead to reductions
in power usage for the company, which is another cost saving.

Unfortunately, with the good must also come the bad.
Employees are forced into isolation. While this can be good for the completion
of tasks, it also can also lead to loneliness. Employees who are used to being
a constant stream of people can soon fall victim to this, as the newness of
telecommuting wears off. Also, this can lead to an “Out of Site, Out of
Mind” mentality when it comes to promotions and inter-office happenings.

Things to think about

When looking to create your telecommuting policy, there are
many concerns you need to look to cover. These concerns generally fall into
these categories: Work Concerns, Location Concerns, and Policy Concerns. The
vast majority of the concerns you will come across can be categorized into
these three.

The first major we will look at is work concerns. You must
have plans clearly in place to be able to deal with work being done by the
telecommuter. The amount of work expected should be clearly identified before
the telecommuting process begins. There should be very clear expiations for the
employee and employer in this case. Also, the verifiability of the work must in
some why be managed. There needs to be a similar number of controls on the quality
of work done by a telecommuter as there is an in office employee. Lastly, the
times may need to be agreed upon. Depending on the position, you may still need
to be available to others via phone, email, or I.M. during certain periods.
Just because someone is telecommuting does not necessarily mean they get to set
their own hours.

Another concern comes from the aspect of just not being in
the office. What type of equipment must the telecommuter possess? Will the
company provide the equipment, or is the employee expected to furnish it? If
internet access is required will the company reimburse? Will there be need for
the employee to have a static IP address or business class broadband service?
Security is also an issue. If an employee access sensitive data how will be
accessed? If a user is not using a company provided P.C., what steps are in
place to prevent the moving of company data to a local P.C.? What about virus
and spyware protection? Also, a plan must be in place for the physical security
of all company provided equipment and documents. Safety is another issue.
O.S.H.A has always long held the belief that the employer’s responsibility for
the workplace is broadly defined and does not end at the four walls of the
office or factory. Many types of employees are covered by this, truck drivers,
sales reps, and telecommuters. While a full home inspection would be overkill,
verifying that the employee is working in an environment that will be safe them
to do their job must be taken into consideration.

Concerns over the telecommuting policy itself must be taken
into consideration. If you allow one employee to telecommute, others will soon
be asking for the same privilege. You must have in place a plan to determine
what employees can and what employees cannot telecommute. You also must take
into account what percentage of time each employee can telecommute. While some
may only need to come into the office on occasion, some may only be telecommute
one day a month.

When working on your telecommuting policy you must also
decide on the rigidity of the policy. Will the plan be a set in stone in plan
for everyone, or will there be multiple policies to handle multiple types of
employees? Who will be in charge of determining policy requirements? Will the
individual department heads be able to determine their employees telecommuting
needs, or will the single corporate policy determine for all?

Think before you implement

As you can see there is much thought and planning that must
go into a telecommuting policy. Many different departmental boundaries are
likely to be crossed when you write your policy. You will need to get the buy
in of all of them for the policy to be effective. While there is much hard work
to this, the benefits to the company and the employees are great and well worth
the effort.

You can quickly implement a telecommuting policy in your organization by
downloading TechRepublic’s Telecommuting Policy. Included you’ll
find a risk assessment spreadsheet that will help you determine the
importance of such a policy to your organization’s security along with a
basic policy that you can use and modify. You can purchase it from the
TechRepublic Catalog or download it for free as part of your
TechRepublic Pro membership.