Successful telecommuting arrangements take custom approach

By BenefitsPro

By Amanda McGrory-Dixon

As Yahoo and Best Buy have announced that they’re ending telecommuting arrangements, it might cause some employers to question their flexible work policies. However, rather than focusing on what Yahoo and Best Buy are doing, an employer should look at its specific situation because telecommuting takes a customized approach. While telecommuting might make sense for some companies, it also could be the wrong option for others, says Carol Sladek, work-life consulting lead at Aon Hewitt, a human resources consulting firm in Chicago.

In fact, the success of telecommuting even depends on the individual employee and specific job, Sladek adds. Many employees view telecommuting as a benefit, and employers are used to providing benefits equally among employees, but that is not an effective approach when it comes to flexible working arrangements. Some employees lack the motivation to work on their own, and some jobs must be completed onsite.

“You need to have the right people and right jobs using telecommuting,” Sladek says. “If you’re trying to spread telecommuting out like peanut butter to everyone in the same manner, it won’t be as effective as it could be.”

To ensure telecommuting is the right fit and productivity is being met, Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader at WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association, recommends that employers measure specific results. Before the telecommuting arrangement even begins, the manager and employee should set performance metrics that are to be met, and the two should make an effort to discuss performance on a scheduled basis, which often leads to improved communication over the traditional office setting.

“Even when you’re working in the office, you don’t always meet with your manager consistently,” Stanley says. “Sometimes, telecommuting forces us to become better managers because we’ll meet a little more often to discuss what it is you’re working on and how have you been able to accomplish it.”

Today’s technological platforms can especially improve communication between a remote employee and manager, Stanley says. Of course, there are tools that have been around for a while now, such as instant messaging and email, but there are also newer platforms that allow employees to communicate in a more personal manner. Google Hangout, for instance, provides face time and video conferencing features, which creates an interactive environment.

Ultimately, having the right communication tools in place is critical to a successful telecommuting arrangement, Sladek says. As every telecommuting situation is different, the various tools can measure multiple results and be customized to analyze the necessary results for each individual.

“It’s really a matter of communication between all parties: employees and their co-workers, employees and their managers,” Sladek says. “And it’s a matter of having the right tools in place to measure what’s happening, whether it’s performance tools, engagement tools, or specific measures of productivity and absenteeism.”

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