According to a recent survey by WorldatWork, the number of employers that offer remote working options have risen 40% in the past year. On the surface, it seems like it's the ideal arrangement, however telecommuting is one of those ideas that looks great on paper but doesn't always work well in practice. Yes, you get the results of a staff without having to provide break rooms, free coffee, and comfortable chairs. Before you offer the option to your staff though, there are some things you need to ask yourself -- and your employees.
Computerworld's Tam Harbert talked to IT mangers and other experts to gain some insight into what telecommuting arrangements work well and what doesn't. She says that although telework doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing option, it's important to examine the issue from all sides to identify potential pitfalls.
One thing often overlooked when employers consider hiring remote workers is how the arrangement will impact the creativity of teams. Although online collaboration tools abound, in some industries nothing beats face-to-face brainstorming.
"In software design, for example, innovation and creative ideas can be the most valuable output," Harbert notes. "Should you measure performance based on creativity? Will workers be more creative at home or less? Perhaps you should measure based on quality rather than quantity. And if so, what constitutes high quality? The answers will depend on the type of job and the type of person."
Another big hindrance to an otherwise successful teleworking arrangement can be resentment from coworkers who are left back at the office. Employees who must report to work every day are sometimes miffed by the perception that their colleagues face fewer ringing phones, less interruptions, a reduced amount of overall hassle than those working in a traditional office setting.
In-house workers at times also may feel like they end up doing the "grunt work" around the office simply because they happen to be physically present when work is delegated. Ironically, these same in-house workers may also end up with preferred assignments because they're the first face the boss sees as she's handing out assignments which, in turn, leads to resentment from remote workers.
Experts say communication with staff at all levels is key. It's important to hold all employees to the same standards regardless of where they conduct their workday, and also make sure there are methods in place to deal with problems that arise with or between remote workers.
Be sure to read Harbert's article for more advice. The experts she interviewed make great points about what you need to know before you let your employees punch a virtual clock.