I wish I could answer this question with a resounding “yes” but the reality of what I see with my clients makes me say “maybe.”

Large employers have recently reigned in their telecommuting options for employees. Yahoo!, IBM, Bank of America, Aetna, Reddit and Best Buy are pulling employees back into the physical office.

When it comes to remote work arrangements, the results are patchy. Here’s what a client shared recently: “I wanted to accommodate  an employee who had been with us from the start of this business. Unfortunately, after a year of remote work, we have concluded that it hasn’t worked as well as we hoped. We are bringing it back to the office.”

First, let me say it right out of the gate, I don’t recommend remote work for new hires or those new to their position. 

Before implementing telecommuting in your business, consider your objectives.

– Are you considering remote work because of a talent shortage in your location? Are you having trouble recruiting the right skills?

– Is this part of a push for better work/life balance to attract younger employees or under-employed workers?

– Is it a tactical move to keep valued employees in your business?

Whatever your reasons, you need to be clear on the objective for allowing remote work. Is it a strategy or is it a tactical move?

Not all positions lend themselves to a remote work arrangement.
 Conduct a job analysis and assess how much of the essential duties can be performed away from the office. Also, consider the confidential nature of the work and the risk for data breach when work is performed in an uncontrolled environment like Starbucks. 

Think hybrid solutions.
 Between being 100% office-based and totally remote, there are many ways to create flexibility in work location. A part-time remote schedule was adopted by HR Certification Institute. I allow employees to telecommute at least one day a week.

Set clear expectations 
that physical presence in the office might be required. In-person weekly staff meeting with a supervisor is a good way to keep in touch.

Select the right employee
. Not all employees are suited for remote work. They may want it but they may not be equipped to succeed. Consider:

  • Skills: Remote worker must also have great communication skills and be organized.
  • Attitude: Just like entrepreneurs, remote employees must have a “go-get-it” attitude to get things done even when no one is prompting them to work
  • Physical set up for a home office. Get a visual of their remote workspace to see how they are set up. Employees working from home need a dedicated space, reliable internet access, and cell phone service.
  • Other questions to consider:
    • Who will pay for home office equipment and maintenance?
    • Are remote employees covered under workers’ compensation insurance?
    • Do employees need additional insurance for their home office?

Test and revisit.
Don’t make an open-ended commitment to remote work. Start as a test case and a limited time. Learn from the experience. If the work results are not satisfactory, bring back in house.

No doubt remote work is on the rise. Careful management will make sure it can succeed in your organization. It will be a plus as an employer to attract millennials who seek better work/life balance and have native digital skills. Contact me
 with your questions about remote work policy and practices.