Whether you have one employee working from home, or a whole team of telecommuters, you've got to have a telecommuting policy plan. Just like you have an office dress code, you'll need a work code for your telecommuters to abide by (even if they are wearing fuzzy bunny slippers).
Check out these 5 things you've got to include to run a successful work-from-home program for your business.
5 Must-Haves for a Work-From-Home Policy
1. Clear Agreements
Perhaps more than an in-office worker, an employee working from home needs to know what managers expect of them, and what they can expect of their managers. From the basic understanding of how many hours of work to be completed each week, to how those hours need to be used.
If your employee works with sensitive data, what kind of security system should protect their data while working from home? Are they allowed to work in less data-secure areas such as coffee shops or public libraries? Telecommuting policies need to include these kind of expectations.
2. Accountability Checks
Just like an office-based worker, your telecommuting employee should be held accountable for the work they do -- but in a way that is appropriate to their situation.
It can be harder for managers to realize the work these employees are doing if they're not seen everyday (out of sight, out of mind?). This is especially true for the "knowledge work" that most businesses do these days. It's much easier to see the pile of apples Farmer Joe picked all day. It's harder to quantify how far along a project has moved when there's no clear physical result.
Using an online project management system or getting regular status reports from your telecommuters can keep them accountable.
3. Back-up Plans
What's the contingency plan if it doesn't work?
If you're moving a current employee from in-house to in-their-own-house, set a date to assess things by -- 3 months is a good length of time. If by that point, it's been a total disaster (you'll both know), what's the best way to move the employee back to the office with no hard feelings on either side?
On the flip side, what if things go so well that more employees want the opportunity too -- can you scale a program like this to keep everyone happy, as well as accommodate the need to have X-number of workers on-site?
4. Communication Hacks
Figure out the best way to keep communication open with your telecommuting employees.
The most obvious disadvantage for stay-at-home employees is the lack of the everyday water-cooler chats, or the brief project clarifications made while passing in the hallway. When you can't peak your head over the cubicle to ask a quick question, what's the best agreed-upon way to communicate?
Should they be on a company-wide instant message system when they're on the clock, so you have quick access to them? What about text messages or phone calls? If email is the most commonly used communication route (which it probably is), what takes the place of the non-email communication you'd normally have in-person?
5. In-Person Check-ins
Nothing beats a good old fashioned face-time meeting to keep everyone motivated and on the same page.
When possible, meet with your telecommuting employees on a regular basis. If you're in the same city, set up a monthly meeting, or at least lunch, to keep everyone connected. When your workforce is spread out far enough that lunch isn't possible, consider a yearly retreat.
Having regular video calls through Skype or Google video chat is another great way to keep communication open.