Saturday, November 15, 2008

Teleworking Saves Overhead and Improves Retention

This article was written by score_tjpg_lefson Bern Lefson, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor.

In this time of high gasoline costs and increases in office rent, teleworking or telecommuting can be a godsend for small firms that wish to retain key talent or high performers.  There are now 35 million teleworkers with 12% of employees at companies with 21 to 100 people sometimes working remotely.

A study by Robert Half International found that teleworking and flexible schedules were the third most important incentive for attracting new employees.  Teleworking cuts overhead because less space is needed and cuts commuting costs for employees.  In fact, teleworking has been found to offer a slight increase in productivity.

To make teleworking be viable for your business, it is important to write a policy that spells out what is expected, who is eligible, which jobs can be done remotely and how often and how productivity will be measured.  For example, jobs that don’t require much face time, or those that require longer periods of concentration are excellent candidates.  Many firms permit teleworking by customer service employees. 

A good practice is to write a contract for the employee working remotely that spells out which hours are required, which days will be remote based, what sort of home office is required, who pays for and owns the equipment needed, and how productivity will be measured.  Customer services jobs can be measured by the number of complaints are resolved per day.  Others may send an email each day specifying what is to be accomplished that day. 

Many firms will provide a laptop computer pay for the internet connection and for a router.  Some also require that a video camera be installed on the computer for teleconferences.  Other firms simply ask that the employee be responsible for providing the equipment in order to be able to work remotely. 

As those with experience in teleworking state, good employees will perform under any conditions – whether at home or at the office.  But do remember that some employees need the environment of an office or do not want to work at home.  If starting this strategy, do it first on a trial or pilot basis.  In this way any problems can be addressed without wrecking the concept.  If it fails to work for your situation, a pilot approach does not bind you and cause issues with expectations being denied.  One key to success with teleworking is excellent communication between everyone.