Money & Business

So You’ve Decided to Implement Teleworking. Now What?

By / May 2, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)
Manage for what you want. Don’t try to manage for what you don’t want. Make telework about results right from the get go.

Once you’ve determined teleworking is right for your organization, it’s time to set up a policy. Here are some tips from one teleworking pro who presented at ASAE’s 2013 Finance, HR & Business Operations Conference this week.

Working remotely is generating a lot of press these days, especially since Yahoo announced that it is no longer allowing its employees to telework.

While opponents of teleworking (see Marissa Mayer) argue that working outside the office can reduce collaboration, innovation, and productivity, proponents point to business benefits such as reduced operational or real estate costs, improved continuity of service, and reduced absenteesism.

If your association sits on the pro side of the fence and is either currently implementing an ad hoc system of telework or is interested in starting a program, you might be wondering how to set up a telework policy in order to avoid confusion and feelings of unfairness among employees.

At this week’s ASAE Finance, HR & Business Operations Conference, Dayna Fellows, president of WorkLife Performance, Inc., and Rob Smith, CAE, president of NetSmith Services, LLC, led a Learning Lab titled “Telework: The Essential Questions Every Association Should Ask,” which outlined several criteria to include in a telework policy.

First, Fellows advised that you establish the business drivers for instituting a teleworking program—because everyone should know why they’re doing it—and write those into your policy.

After you’ve written in the business basis, be sure to include things such as:

Eligibility factors. These can come in two forms: position and person eligibility. Not all jobs are teleworkable, Fellows said. And, similarly, not all people are productive in a teleworking environment—some employees need more supervision, or new hires may still be learning the business, which is best done in the office.

Once you determine who and what jobs are eligible, make that transparent in your policy or else it will look biased, Fellows also said. “You’ve got to publish your criteria. Be incredibly clear.”

Frequency. How many days do you want your staff working out of the office? “The amount of days that you allow teleworking should directly correspond to how much work can get done fully by working apart from each other,” Fellows said. In other words, determine the number of days employees can telework and the number of days they should be in the office to collaborate with and work  face-to-face with other team members.

Location, location, location. Do you care if your staff is working from Starbucks, a library, or the mall?

If you don’t mind your employees doing their work in a potentially noisy and distracting coffee shop—perhaps because you want them to have more creative freedom and they can still get the work done—then by all means write that into an agreement. Just be clear about what is acceptable and not acceptable and be aware of safety, security, and privacy concerns, Fellows warned.

Performance management. “Manage for what you want,” Fellows said. “Don’t try to manage for what you don’t want. Make it about results right from the get go.”

Make it clear that they’re expected to achieve the same results as employees working in the office, and on the flip side, make sure teleworkers do not miss out on opportunities that in-office staff members receive.

“There are still people who believe that if you do this teleworking stuff that you’re not as serious about your career,” Fellows said. “Make sure that everybody understands the teleworker has access to every promotion, every opportunity, every challenge, every committee.”

Time and attendance practices. Reiterate that teleworkers are required to work the same amount of time and be accessible during your organization’s normal business hours as if they were in the office.

Reporting to the office. Include in the policy a statement that if you need teleworkers to come into the office on a day that is supposed to be a telework day, you can ask them to come in. This is especially helpful for supervisors and managers who are ultimately accountable for the work getting done.

Above all, include terms and conditions such as these into a written agreement that you have teleworkers sign, advised Fellows, who also recommended an annual renewal process to assess whether working remotely is the best option for a particular staff member or position.

And remember: “Telework doesn’t mean ‘Woohoo, I’m not in the office,’” Fellows said. “Telework means ‘I’m getting the smartest work done in the smartest place.’”

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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