Today, more and more employers realize the benefits that working from home can have for their company and employees. The key challenge is determining which employees are disciplined enough to handle this freedom, and how often you should allow an employee to work remotely.
Years ago, it seemed the only people able to work from the comforts of their home office (or bedroom) were those running an Internet company or some other entrepreneurial venture. Today, more and more employers realize the benefits that working from home can have for their company and employees. In fact, according to the 2007 CDW-G Telework Report, 40% of private sector organizations have telecommuter policies in place at their company.
The key challenge is determining which employees are disciplined enough to handle this freedom, and how often you should allow an employee to work remotely. Despite fears, few employees see working at home as a way to sleep in or as unapproved vacation day. Some employees actually work longer hours at home because they avoid a lengthy commute. The challenge is determining if your staff can handle the flexibility or if they will abuse the privilege and do their grocery shopping or laundry instead of their work.
It is important to know your employees when making this assessment. Before giving an employee permission to work form home, think about how well this employee has handled responsibility in the past. Do they meet deadlines or are they often requesting an extension? Do they have a multitude of questions or do they get a project and run with it, producing something that meets or exceeds expectations? You should also study your employees and try to understand their habits. Employees who are easily distractible, or who tend to be very social may not be ideal work from home candidates.
How frequent or how seldom an employee works from home depends heavily on their position, their responsibilities, and your company. Not every position offers the ability to stay at home (office secretary), while other positions naturally have more flexibility (graphic designer). If the job can be performed outside of your four walls or work site, then it is worth attempting to implement a work at home option. Start slow with once a week and evaluate how it impacts overall performance. You may even find that allowing employees to work remotely on a regular basis gives you more office space for new employees and saves you money on overhead.
A work from home plan should be part of most sick policies. Most people will opt to come to work unless they are quite ill.Employees with mild colds should be encouraged to stay home rather than come into work. Creative employers may even offer alternative tasks for mildly sick days if an employee's usual job doesn't lend itself to working from home. For example, a car salesperson could spend the day at home calling previous customers to set up appointments for a test drive on a future date, rather than shaking hands and potentially infecting visiting customers and other employees.
Weather and traffic conditions are both excellent reasons why an employee would be better off working from home. Their safety is important to you, and showing them that you care only strengthens your relationship. Besides, if something was to happen, you would feel terrible knowing that you made an employee come in when they could have done the work from the safety of their own home.
Another example is an employee with disabilities or a woman who is pregnant. They may be more comfortable working from home, as opposed to having to make the trek into the office each day. Giving them the option to work from home shows that you are considerate of their situation and value him or her as an employee. Be cautious about the timing of such decisions. Allowing a disabled or pregnant employee to work from home without first setting the parameters of the program could result in your other employees feeling at a disadvantage. You also want to protect yourself from anyone claiming discrimination.
Work from home programs are becoming standard practice with many companies. They offer increased productivity, happier employees, less turnover, less overhead and less time and money spent recruiting. Implemented properly and your employees will view working from home as a reward for their hard work, and continue to work hard for your company – whether they are in your office or their home office.
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