Telecommuting is a dream job for most employees who envision conference calls lounging in yoga pants, choosing when and where they want to work and sleeping in before starting their non-traditional workday. As someone who works from home myself and has since my first telecommuting job in 2007, I can tell you personally that there are challenges, benefits and opportunities that telecommuting can bring.
Still I love the flexibility to run my daughter to school in-between morning meetings, taking lunch break to make a quick trip to pick up a friend from the airport or grocery run. Even still, I have a hard time shutting down. I have to close the door to my home office, disconnect and prioritize family time.
It's no secret that telecommuting is a great way for employers to employ top talent without confining them to a geographic space. Employees who telecommute at least occasionally will grow to 63 million US employees by 2016 according to a 2009 report by Forrester Research making the challenge of adapting for employees who will begin embracing this alternative work lifestyle and the managers who lead them especially challenging.
As an HR professional who has implemented a number of flexible work programs, I have personally experienced challenges, resistance and even fear when it comes to creating a new program for telecommuting from managers, business leaders as well as employees. Fear of change and the unknown by executives, new policy development, and manager training are just a few of the challenges you and your HR face when creating a new teleworking program at your company.
When sitting down with your boss or someone from the HR team to make a case to develop a work from home teleworking program, I recommend you first do the following:
1) Research and Provide Case Studies. Provide examples of telecommuting programs at other companies and how these new initiatives impacted the bottom line. Examples within your industry are best and focus on how the program impacted things like productivity, revenue, employee turnover and overhead costs like buildings, electricity and travel expense.
2) Understand the BOYD, Telecommuting Expectations and Virtual Policies. It's important to understand workplace and HR policies related to your role especially as a work from home or flexible scheduling employee. This means reading the employee handbook, asking questions about reimbursement for internet access, cell phone use, bring your own device or BYOD and other technology. Your boss will want to know planned work schedules, costs associated including computers, phone lines and office furniture, where you will work at home if an office or your couch and how you will remain focused on your job instead of watching daytime tv.
3) Know Employment Laws that Impact the Virtual Worker and Employer. Teleworking for many HR and executive teams is still new and employment laws haven't caught up to account for the growing gray area between work and life. While I'm not suggesting you create HR policies, research and be prepared to discuss laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA, work from home injuries on the job and any state or city specific telecommuting laws that might impact your company.
4) Formulate a Communication and Work Strategy. Develop a "rough" plan and work flow just about how your team will go about their day. What types of communication tools like intranet, email internal social networks and video conferencing technologies is your company already using? How can these tools help you stay connected and productive in your workday?
5) Create a Pilot Program to Test Teleworking at Your Company. One of the best ways I have found to make a case to add telework at an organization is through a small 90-day pilot program. This allows you, business leaders, your boss and HR to work out the kinks, establish a formal policy or process and make changes to the program before it goes mainstream. Be direct about how you will measure during the pilot program and be prepared to measure, analyze and report your findings along the way.
Most importantly, when sitting down with the boss to suggest a work from home or telecommuting program at your office, arm yourself with knowledge, resources and a plan. It's better to over prepare in situations like these. Focus on gathering information, resources and building a business case that paints a picture of how beneficial adding a teleworking program can be for both parties.