A Telecommuting Guide for Businesses and Employees

Selling DI

Telecommuting has become commonplace in the business world. With more and more people opting to work remotely, it’s also a much more common and accepted way of working. Telecommuting is not just something that millennials choose, it’s a growing trend in every industry and every community.

As more and more people join this trend, companies are now coming to terms with just how beneficial such a work model can be. While many managers and company owners in the past thought giving their team the freedom to work from home would reduce productivity, telecommuting has opened a whole new way of connecting with employees from all over the world. In fact, it has been a huge driver for transformation and collaboration and has paved a new path for companies and employees to connect better.

So, what is telecommuting?

Telecommuting basically means working from outside the office or working remotely. Traditionally, telecommuting meant you could be working from home, a cafe, a co-working space, etc. In our new socially distant world, telecommuting almost exclusively means working from home. Telecommuting should not be confused with freelancing – as telecommuting is a work agreement between a company and their employee. It is based on the idea that the employees “commute” through telephonic or virtual channels such as email, phone, video and more.

According to Flexjobs – a job search platform specializing in flexible and remote job opportunities, 90% of employees say more flexible work arrangements would increase morale. But that’s just the beginning. A Flexjobs survey also found that 80% of remote workers experience less job stress and 85% of employers offering telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements report increased productivity.

These statistics on telecommuting and remote working are compelling and show why such a type of working scheme is beneficial for the company and its employees. While some jobs are easier to transition into a remote working model, others that need face to face meetings, handling equipment or require any kind of a physical presence aren’t as simple. 

Telecommuting works best for companies in industries such as sales, marketing, IT, healthcare, administration, customer care and training. Prior to COVID, most companies evaluated eligibility for telecommuting on a case by case basis… whether the employee’s role could easily be shifted to a virtual environment, their work performance and other job requirements. In our current COVID-19 world, employers are offering telecommuting to all employees as a health safety precaution.

Creating a Telecommuting Policy

Making a telecommunicating policy for your company will help set the right expectations and allow the employee and employer to understand what is needed from each. When working remotely, there is a higher chance of miscommunication and unclear expectations. This is where getting a policy in place can help you stay on track and manage your employees remotely without there being any delay in work or deadlines.

There aren’t any particular set of rules to use for a telecommuting policy, but they should cover some basic topics. Ask yourself the questions below to find what is right to add to your policy as per the rules that best suit you.

  • What is the approval and eligibility process to help determine which employees are the best fit for remote working?
  • What is the flexibility of work you want to offer your employees who are telecommuting?
  • Should employees have a dedicated space or area in their remote workspace?
  • What is the best way to communicate for you and your telecommuting employees?
  • What kind of equipment or technical help will you have to provide to people not working in the office?

Best tips for Managing a Remote Team

Now that you have thought about the benefits of telecommuting and how you can set up a telecommuting policy for your business, let’s think about how you can efficiently manage a team remotely. Keeping a few simple tips in mind and investing in the correct software can help you by leaps and bounds.

Cloud-Based Software

For any remote working situation to thrive, it is imperative that the company and all their employees are on the same page when it comes to tasks, projects and files shared. Get rid of outdated techniques that required you to send edited versions back and forth, always getting lost in the mailbox. Instead, with cloud-based software, you will be able to access all your data and files online without having to store them on a single device. No matter where you or your employees are, everyone can use such a platform to share updated versions of your documents and files and stay in sync with work.

Cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 feature desktop and web-based versions of the Microsoft applications you’d expect (i.e. Word, Outlook, Excel, etc.) but additional features were built with telecommuting in mind. Applications such as Microsoft Teams (for instant messaging, file sharing, video conferencing) and OneDrive (cloud-based file sharing and storage) make collaboration and staying in touch easy.

Constant Communication

Just because you don’t work face to face in an office, doesn’t mean you can’t have constant communication with the people you work with. Make sure to set up timely scheduled calls with each of your employees as well as group calls to discuss how their work is going and if there are any areas they may need help with. Make sure to also encourage relationships between remote teammates so they can collaborate, stay in touch and reduce task overlapping.

Be clear of what you want your team to achieve and set targets that are clear and understandable. Clear communication contributes to a better understanding of work and the tasks assigned and doesn’t leave any room for confusion.

Social Communication

At our main offices in Portland, OR, we take communication one step further. We occasionally host virtual happy hours so our team can maintain some of the non-work related conversations that typically happen when we’re physically together. While these interactions may not benefit the organization directly, we feel they’re crucial for building camaraderie and a sense of belonging to a team.

Trusting Relationships

Nothing is more important than trust between a company and a remote employee. Without that, you will always be worried about whether they will be completing their tasks and meeting deadlines. The team relies on each other to complete their part of the work to ensure the success of the company. Without trust, that can be a hindrance. Build trust with everyone you work with, at the office or remotely to manage your team efficiently. 

Feedback and Success

The easiest way to success is ensuring you are constantly measuring how your employees are doing at their job. Constant feedback and open communication can help you and your team stay on the same page about achieving targets. With feedback and positive criticism, you can also help them better complete tasks and the functions of their role in a more effective manner. Make sure to let your employees know when they do a good job and