How to establish a telecommuting program
"Determine what you're going to gain by offering a telecommuting program."
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Hi. I'm Tegan Jones for the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. Today, we're discussing how to set up a successful telecommuting program. Joining me is Ramon Ray, editor of SmallBizTechnology.com. Thanks for joining me, Ramon.
Well, thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
Ramon, I know a lot of employers have started offering flexible work options, like telecommuting, to help their employees maintain their work-life balance. What are some of the first things business owners should do if they're thinking of making this option available to their employees?
I think that the aspects of productivity are important, the aspect of looking at costs are important, and the aspect of employee morale. I think productivity you want to really look at telecommuting in the light of: Should you even do it? What were you going to gain from telecommuting? And a lot of that is the productivity aspect.
Two, are the costs. It does cost something, or an investment to do telecommuting right. You want to make sure that your company can carry that investment and that it's worth your while to do so.
And I think the third thing is employee morale. Here's an employee that's used to being at a water cooler, used to going to lunch with his or her other colleagues, now they're going to be home most likely all alone. Can they do that? So you want to really look at the person behind your telecommuting before you engage and do it.
What else should business owners think about?
One: What are the types of positions that may be more conducive or not conducive to telecommuting? If it's a receptionist position, should that be telecommuting or not? If it's a logistics position, yes or no? So you really want to consider what position is that you're doing this as you scale it out and roll it out.
Point two: Maybe the position is right for telecommuting, but you want to think of the individual behind that. Some people, they thrive better in a 9-to-5, maybe corporate office with a boss there and the water cooler and the chitchat and things like this – someone to go to lunch with. Some people don't need that.
And I think the third thing is performance – really, how you're going to measure that. And this is important, you don't want to have someone telecommuting and then not being able to reward them if they're delivering because you can't see them like you can an in-office employee. But you also want to know if they're not doing their work right. So you need some way to measure their performance.
So once you've made these distinctions, how can you seamlessly integrate telecommuting into your operations?
One: It's important on a technical side to make sure that you're looking at similar collaboration tools. There's nothing worse than having John in Texas using Tool A, Becky in Minnesota using Tool B, and the corporate office using Tool C. That's just a recipe for disaster. So having people leverage similar or the same collaboration tools technically.
I think – point two – security is very important. You already have employees who are traveling, and that you probably have some measure of success with security. But now you have employees that are staying away from the office. They're working out of their home office or a temporary office space. So really make sure you work with your tech team or hire a consultant to make sure security is up to par and in place for the sake of the remote employees and for your business' sake.
And I think the third thing is really it's important to invest in the right technology. Don't go and think, "Oh, wow, we can get a cheap video camera, a cheap this, and a cheap that." You really want to invest in the right technology for your telecommuting program.
I really like your last point there, Ramon, about technology. To be successful, remote workers really need to have those tools that are going to keep them connected. Can you talk specifically about what types of technology telecommuters should use?
Sure. And there's so many tools, Tegan, that we can, you know, talk about today. But I think a good starting point, I think for sure a good camera, web camera otherwise is very important, whether it's connected to a notebook computer or a desktop computer.
Point two: A very stable, solid, secure Internet connection. People are remote. The Internet is going to be their lifeline. That's point two.
I think point three: Relatively easy-to-use equipment is important, as well. You know, there's nothing worse than having an employee that's remote and every day they dread using their phone or the copier you got for them or the computer. So let it be as user-friendly as possible.
And I think the fourth point, Tegan, that's pretty important is training. Because the employee is remote doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to invest in training them how to be a better telecommuter and how to do their own job better, as well.
Thanks for sharing these great tips, Ramon. I know they'll help make telecommuting a win for both business owners and their staff.
It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
And thank you for joining us for this segment of the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. To learn more about how Wells Fargo business banking can help you, visit wellsfargo.com/biz. In the meantime, we wish you continued success.