A good work-from-home program can save your company money, boost employee productivity and morale, and act as a perk to help you attract great talent. But to be effective, your program needs to have enough structure to keep your staff on task and bring out their best work without supervision, and it needs to have some elements to help you stay on top of employee performance. Here are some steps to help you create a well-developed, flexible work-at-home program.
1. Hash Out Eligibility
Which staff members will be eligible to work from home and which will need to stay in the office? Specific eligibility guidelines are essential to a fair policy. Your guidelines should spell out which positions are eligible, how many days per week you’ll allow telecommuting, how long a person needs to have been with the company to qualify, and any specific benchmarks you’ll be looking at in their employee evaluations, such as a proven ability to work without supervision. You might need at least one day a week in the office from all staff to support company culture. If your staff won’t all be local, a brief weekly teleconference is an effective team-building tool.
2. Spell Out Expectations
People who haven’t tried to work remotely may not have a clear perception of what working from home involves. They may think they can cancel their day care arrangements or set their own hours. Be clear about the need for them to be free of other responsibilities and commitments during their workday, and be honest about how flexible the hours will be. If you need people to be on task during business hours for meetings and instant communication, they may have to stay on a rigid schedule.
3. Consider Equipment
Your office employees are probably provided with a desk, ergonomic chair, chair pad, file storage, office supplies, and workstation, as well as all the software and updates they need to get their jobs done. Will you be providing this equipment for your at-home staff as well or a cash allowance for them to buy their own items? Remote workers will also need a high-end smartphone like a Galaxy S7 Edge to stay connected to the office. This might be a separate company phone or a secure environment within their own device.
4. Plan for Security
The security of company data is a factor to consider on your employees’ home systems and internet lines as well. Your IT department can help you set up secure remote systems, but don’t forget to consider hard copies of sensitive information. You need a paper management system that will keep confidential information safe outside the office, and you need to make sure you can get files back if the employee quits or is fired.
5. Set Up Communication Channels
Communicate clearly about how your staff will interact with co-workers and clients. Do you want your employees to report to you by text, e-mail, or internal messaging system? Do you use any informal channels that are not secure for transmitting client details? How often do you expect your staff to check in with their team? If staff members will rarely be in the office, consider including them in some meetings via teleconference to keep up a feeling of personal connection with the team.
6. Monitor Performance
To keep productivity high, you’ll need a set of clearly defined outcomes. Work-at-home employees will focus on meeting the performance benchmarks you set, so make sure you’re set up to measure the work you expect each person to produce. Do your current systems track employee input? If not, how will you measure productivity? Be wary of systems that track employee activity instead of results; keep in mind that the staff in the office aren’t chained to their computers all day. Realistically, people need to use the restroom, walk around to clear their heads, take a break to get a beverage or snack, and have moments of social contact throughout the day.
A detailed policy will give your work-from-home program a solid foundation. The process will also help you define your expectations, communication policies, and productivity criteria, which will make you a better manager of remote staff.