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Summary:

Many workers these days only look for telecommuting positions, and those who’ve worked on a virtual basis before often have very specific ideas about what they want to see in an employer. Knowing what those expectations are and how to manage them can be useful.

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There are plenty of workers these days who only look for telecommuting positions, and those who’ve worked on a virtual basis before often have some very specific ideas about what they want to see in an employer.

Knowing what those expectations are and how to manage them can be very useful for an organization interested in working with a distributed staff.

An Employee, Like Any Other

Most telecommuters have an expectation that you’ll treat them like other employees in your business. They want to have access to the same benefits you offer to people working in the office, such as health insurance. There may be benefits that simply aren’t applicable (such as reimbursement for any public transportation used to get to work) that you may not need to find an equivalent for your telecommuters. It’s arguable, after all, that telecommuting itself may be a benefit.

Additionally, many telecommuters want to be considered employees, rather than contractors. That means you remain responsible for payroll taxes, insurance and the other bits and pieces of a compensation package.

Managing Unusual Technical Requirements

While the average telecommuting employee probably has a computer and an Internet connection already set up at home, their equipment simply may not be up to the requirements of your organization. It’s not unusual for such employees to expect employers to pay for any technology above and beyond what they would normally provide for themselves. If, for instance, there’s a specific piece of software that your employees absolutely have to have, you’ll be expected to pay for the license for your telecommuters’ computers. Similarly, the cost of a high-speed Internet connection may come out of your pocket, rather than your employees’.

There are some organizations that expect their telecommuting employees to work on their own hardware, but it can actually be a better choice for the employer to provide computers and other equipment for all telecommuting employees. It’s not an unexpected expense — after all, you would be paying for computers for your employees if they were based in the office — and it’s easier to retain control and ensure that key software packages will run smoothly if you know what everyone is working on. Furthermore, a telecommuter may consider haggling over relatively small expenses like a new computer with an employer to be a bad sign.

Extremely Clear Communication

Throughout the application and hiring process, a good telecommuter will be paying attention to how you and your organization communicate. If there’s information that doesn’t get passed along or miscommunications because people aren’t talking face-to-face, it’s not out of the question for a telecommuter to go back to job hunting. Since such employees aren’t in your office, it’s especially important for communications to be clear. Evidence that isn’t the case can make a telecommuting employee think twice about just how easy it will be to work with your company.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Jessamyn West

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  1. Fair pay. Just because someone has the “luxury” of telecommuting, it doesn’t mean you can pay them slave wages…especially if they are a contractor responsible for their own taxes, insurance, equipment, etc.

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