Telecommuting & The Snowstorm Named Nemo

Mark Sagor


nemoAs the Northeast digs out from the storm named Nemo, I am thinking about the status of telecommuting in the workplace. I haven’t seen the numbers on this yet, but I would wager that a record number of Massachusetts employees were working from home last Friday as this super storm approached and the governor ordered everyone off the roads.

The storm had the power to force us to stay home but it couldn’t prevent us from attending “Go To Meetings” (disabling the webcam feature so that we could participate in our pajamas), keeping up with our email and phone calls remotely, and working on documents stored in one of the digital clouds (many offered at no cost) available to even the smallest of organizations.

The hardware, software and bandwidth necessary for employees to collaborate remotely continues to improve and become more widely available. There is no turning back the clock on the technological changes that are making it possible for employees to get work done without going to the workplace.

This means that top performers will increasingly expect to be evaluated on their productivity rather than hours on the job. Organizations whose policies and practices reflect antiquated notions of work will have difficulty recruiting, engaging and retaining top talent.

Companies that want to leverage the benefits of telecommuting while avoiding the potential pitfalls should make sure they have clear and comprehensive strategy that includes the following elements:

  1. Goals: Why does your company want to support telecommuting?
    1. To improve employee morale?
    2. To improve productivity by allowing off-line time to complete regular reports or other assignments?
    3. To assist employee efforts to balance work and family?
    4. To attract and retain special-skill millennials, pre-retirement boomers or other key talent?
  2. Eligibility: Not all jobs are suitable for telecommuting. Be clear in defining eligibility criteria so that employees can determine their eligibility based on their job function. Eligibility should not be determined arbitrarily by the employee’s manager even though the manager needs to have input about any regular absence from the workplace.
  3. Cost/benefit:  A comprehensive telecommuting strategy will carefully analyze the costs for such items as additional hardware, software, home connectivity and IT support and the benefits of achieving the goals of a telecommuting program.
  4. Telecommuter responsibilities: Clearly define telecommuting as a privilege extended to strong performing employees and be specific about employee responsibilities regarding accessibility to their teams and customers during business hours.
  5. Employer responsibilities: What equipment (e.g. smart phone) will the company pay for and not pay for? What level of remote IT support will be provided?

Did you work from home last Friday? I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment.