5 telework pitfalls to avoid

Firm policies and pilot projects help make programs successful
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/16/2008

There are about 800,000 Canadians who telecommute almost daily and about 2.5 million who telecommute at least one day a week, according to research by Avaya, an Internet-based telephone services and technology firm.

For employers wanting to go green to attract and retain workers, telecommuting one day a week saves an average of 354 litres of gas, which avoids the creation of 464 kilograms of carbon in a year, while full-time telecommuting avoids the creation of 2,320 kilograms of carbon per employee per year.

Despite these advantages, many companies lack the knowledge to implement a successful remote work and telecommuting program, according to St. Louis-based telecommuting expert Brandon Dempsey.

Most companies can implement a telecommuting program with their current infrastructure but sound policies and procedures are critical to any program’s success, said Dempsey, who is the vice-president of telecommuting consultancy Suite Commute.

There are five common mistakes companies make when they implement a remote work and telecommuting program, according to Dempsey.

Lack of concrete policies and procedures

: Take the time to lay down the process of telecommuting, which can vary greatly by company. Companies often go to Google and search for policy samples, but Dempsey said there isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy and taking this approach could lead to legal trouble down the road.

Over-investing in technology

: Companies shouldn’t rush to buy the latest telecommuting-friendly technology. Instead, businesses should look carefully at the jobs virtual employees will perform and buy the technology that makes sense for those jobs. Companies can often use their existing IT infrastructure without buying any new software or hardware.

Failing to train managers

: Managing someone remotely requires a different set of management skills, especially concerning communication timing. Companies should train managers who will be overseeing virtual employees to help them learn the techniques they need to effectively manage at a distance.

Lack of an implementation strategy

: Whenever a company embarks on a remote work and telecommuting program, it should first explore whether this type of initiative fits the business model. Companies should map out business drivers and define the goals of a virtual work option before implementing the telecommuting program.

Overlooking a pilot program

: Companies should first test a telecommuting initiative. Instead of allowing 100 staff to telecommute, try a pilot program first and deploy 10 or 15 employees. After all the policies and procedures are in place, then the initiative can be widely implemented.

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