With technology allowing people to work remotely, many firms have adopted teleworking as part of their strategic work policies. When planned and managed successfully, teleworking can benefit both the business and the employee. A Gallup Poll found that teleworking options can build trust and productivity among employees and boost an organization’s employee retention efforts. For workers, teleworking offers flexibility, increases job satisfaction, and cuts costs and time for commuting to work. Technology enables people to stay connected even if they are thousands of miles away. Video and services such as digital transcription support the teleworking trend by bringing remote workers into meetings and other events.
Gallup found that the percentage of employees who work remotely increased from 39 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2016. According to the 2019 State of Remote Work report, remote workers are likely to stay in their current job for the next 5 years 13% more than onsite workers. To succeed with teleworking, firms must ensure that they have a proper strategy in place. Here are 6 tips for success with a teleworking arrangement:
- Determine the staff who are eligible for telework: Not all positions are suitable for telework. So the first step should be to conduct a study to determine which jobs can benefit from more flexible working arrangements and matches the company’s teleworking requirements. A Gallup study found that about 55 percent of U.S. jobs could allow for telecommuting, at least on a part-time basis (www.shrm.org). Firms also need to understand what the employees want from the teleworking arrangements. The reasoning behind teleworking privileges granted to staff should be clearly spelt out.
- Develop a telework policy and agreement: Organizations need to put their telework policy down in writing. It is important for all staff to understand who is eligible for teleworking and why. The policy should clearly state the jobs that meet telework criteria, employee work and communications expectations, and the approval processes for telework requests, according to a Thriving Small Business article. The employee eligible for telework should be made to sign an agreement that clearly spells out rules including the time period for the arrangement, work arrangements and requirements, and other matters. If the employee interacts with customers, the policy should clearly define service-level customer support requirements.
- Promote active collaboration: Once the arrangement is in place, the organization needs to take steps to ensure active collaboration. To ensure that employees working from home don’t feel left out, they need to be allowed to participate in meetings and other events. This would require the use of technology tools such as video conferencing. Collaboration tools such as video conferencing help in “building trust and intimacy that is conveyed by eye contact, body language and other nonverbal communication cues, according to Robert Arnold, a principal with management consultancy Frost & Sullivan’s Digital Transformation-Connected Work Industry practice (www.shrm.org). Business transcription services are available to document meetings and important phones calls for future reference.
- Ensure IT requirements are met: HR teams must assess the technical needs, resources, security features and other technology features needed to enable telework. In addition to computer-related technical support, remote workers need to have access to the office files they need. Dedicated IT support should be available to quickly resolve any technical glitches that can interrupt their work.
- Build trust and communication: Employers need to trust their teleworkers and be confident that they will do the tasks they are assigned. Rigid monitoring should be avoided as it can lead to distrust and affect productivity. However, daily check-ins can be useful. On their part, teleworkers should be transparent about their activities and make sure they’re meeting their obligations. Good communication at all levels is crucial to build trust between remote workers and the firm. Employees need to be aware of communication expectations such as status reports on projects. Managers should be ready to give feedback on performance metrics and support. Good on-going communication is necessary to meet organizational as well as individual goals.
- Assess progress: Companies need to have evaluation tools to assess their teleworking program. By identifying gaps and hitches, they can take appropriate measures to mold their teleworking needs and policies to meet workers’ and organizational needs.
Virtual meetings and weekly phone calls are reliable ways to communicate with remote workers, and meeting transcription service providers can ensure that the audio is converted into text files for reference. At the same time, firms should not lose sight of the social isolation aspect of teleworking. Most workers find the social isolation as one of the most difficult things associated with working remotely. Ipsos Research found that 62 percent of global teleworkers feel socially isolated when they don’t see their colleagues face-to-face every day. Professional or social isolation can have a negative impact on job performance. The best way to overcome this concern is to schedule times when employees can meet in person and build bonds and rapport with other team members.
As the workplace evolves, organizations can leverage the benefits of teleworking and manage and optimize performance by addressing any opportunities or challenges.