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Summary:

If you’re just starting to consider the option of working remotely, whether through flexible work arrangements with your current employees or by hiring new team members who will work remotely from the start, you’ll want to establish some guidelines to keep your team productive and happy.

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If you’re just starting to consider the option of working remotely, whether through flexible work arrangements with your current employees or by hiring new team members who will work remotely from the start, you’ll want to establish some guidelines to keep your team productive and happy. Here are a few to consider. 

Viability

Before beginning any remote-work arrangement, you’ll need to ensure that it’s a feasible option for your situation and company. Although there are many cases where employees can get just as much work done (if not more) working virtually as they can in-house, there are certain situations where it might not be a realistic option, such as if your company requires a large amount of direct, in-person contact with customers and colleagues.

Viability of remote working not only applies to the circumstances surrounding the company, but also to the individual employees considering the possibility. You must determine on a case-by-case basis if a person has the discipline and motivation to maintain his or her responsibilities without direct supervision.

Finally, is it viable from a logistical standpoint? Are the resources, tools, and technology available to support this kind of work arrangement? Establish a checklist of all required items for creating a successful remote work situation, such as:

  • Computer and equipment needs,
  • Internet connectivity needs,
  • Software needs,
  • Security needs, and
  • Communication needs (phone, voice mail, email, fax, IM, etc.).

Performance Expectations

How will a remote working arrangement affect performance expectations? Will it impact how performance is measured, how assignments are distributed, or how deadlines are established and monitored?

Scheduling and Availability

Especially in the early stages of remote working, getting used to new norms of availability and scheduling can be a challenge. Business owners and managers might expect employees to be available during set times, while employees would rather work during times when they’re most productive, which is why it’s important to communicate these expectations clearly from the beginning. Questions to consider include:

  • Will employees be expected to come to the office a certain amount of time each week?
  • What will be the terms regarding overtime?
  • Will the employee be required to track hours worked each day or week?
  • Will the employee have vacation and sick time?
  • Will employees be required to maintain set “office hours,” where they are available by phone, IM, or email?
  • Will employees have a standard response time for communications?
  • Will employees be required to attend certain company functions, meetings, or events?

One important consideration is that it’s not always in the best interest of productivity to increase the number of meetings between employees and management staff simply because of a remote working arrangement. Having meetings for the sake of it wastes time that could be spent more productively.

Designated Work Space and Time

Another big consideration with remote working is that the lines between personal time and space and company time and space can quickly blur, so it’s important to establish guidelines before beginning the arrangement:

  • Will the employee be permitted to work whenever he or she chooses? For example, is it acceptable for an employee to break work into blocks of time over the course of a week that may not be in line with more traditional work schedules?
  • Will the person be expected to have a designated workspace that is separate from the rest of his/her home?
  • Will the person be required to have child/dependent care during certain hours?

Expenses

In addition to personal versus company space and time, you also must establish clear lines between personal and company expenses:.

  • Who will be responsible for purchasing and maintaining equipment, software and supplies?
  • Will the company reimburse the employee for utilities or other expenses associated with conducting business activity at home?

Also, don’t forget to consider taxes and insurance. Both the employer and employee should meet with qualified professionals to understand the implications of a remote working arrangement.

Evaluation and Review

With any remote working situation, it’s a good idea to start with a trial period to see how well the arrangement works for both parties. Also, be sure to set regular performance review to be sure that work continues to be performed at or above expectation.

In the end, a good majority of businesses can support the option of working remotely, but whatever your business, the first step is setting up solid guidelines that keep you and your team on the same page so that you’re productive and profitable.

What guidelines does your company have in place for remote working?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Dominic

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  1. Good ideas. It’s also good to maintain flexibility and be open to changing the remote working arrangements as you and your employees become more familiar with what works and what doesn’t.

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