With the rise to prominence for technology, from mobile banking to smartphones and tablet computers, it has become easier than ever for employees to work from home. But, small business owners may believe that this isn't for them – even though having a portion of the workforce that telecommutes can have a number of benefits.
"Hiring telecommuters can help small and medium businesses expand into new territories and markets without setting up new office space," Sara Sutton Fell, founder of FlexJobs.com, told Entrepreneur magazine.
There are other pluses too. Many people are more productive when they are at home, and it also can demonstrate employee loyalty by letting some make important family deadlines or other appointments with minimal hassle. With these perks in mind, small business owners may want to figure out a few key strategies to allow telecommuters into the workforce.
Create a clear telecommuting policy
Even if the company is perfect for telecommuting, there still needs to be a comprehensive policy in place to establish clear guidelines about when it is – and isn't – acceptable. This way, there won't be a hit to the financial plan thanks to a lack of productivity or absentee workers.
According to Microsoft Business, these guidelines should be determined based on the business itself, management's comfort level with the idea and what all of the employees need most. In some cases, it may not be wise to work from home. For instance, staying out of the office to babysit for a long period of time may not be ideal. Instead, that employee should work alternate hours or request time off. There are also situations where it is possible to employ full-time telecommuters, but this depends on the company. To control these aspects, the business should hire a manager to oversee the program.
Above all else, the firm shouldn't skimp on the technology, Microsoft Business explained. Those that work from home need access to company emails and other documents, so it would be smart to invest in an intranet or extranet. These are websites exclusively for employee use. With one in place, it will be easier for telecommuters to collaborate with co-workers and stay up-to-date on daily business.
Find out if employees can be productive
The key to a successful telecommuting program is hiring employees who can be productive in the office or at home. According to Entrepreneur magazine, asking some intelligent questions can find out that answer.
For starters, a small business owner may want to find out if the candidate is qualified to work from home. Not asking this could impact a financial plan, because the person may struggle to meet deadlines or produce excellent work. In order to learn this, put the person to a test: Let them work from home for a day, and see how everything goes. A simple trial is often the best way to get a clear answer. What's more, small business owners should also ask if the person can handle technology problems. What would they do if their computer went down? This answer can determine whether or not they are ready to work from home.
In addition, small business owners should ask about small children. Juggling work and daycare at the same time is nearly impossible, so this shouldn't be the motivation to telecommute.
"It's simply impossible to be able to focus both on your work and your children at the same time," Fell told the news source. "It's not good for either of them, and you wind up feeling stressed, stretched and unproductive in both areas."
If they have adequate childcare already in place, then they may be ready to work from home without losing productivity or focus.