How to Develop a Sound Telecommuting Policy

15 May

Technological innovations have played a crucial role in shaping the work environments of modern offices. While HR software solutions have streamlined processes and freed up resources, advances like mobile communication and video conferencing tools have enabled more workers than ever to craft their own schedules and work from outside the office while still being connected with coworkers and others every step of the way.

The trend in a mobile-enabled workforce is gaining steam among businesses in surging numbers. A recent survey by Challenger, Grey & Christmas found 80 percent of HR executives said their organization extends telecommuting options to employees in some capacity. Other findings indicate telecommuting isn’t a passing fad, but an increasingly essential aspect to a talent management strategy: 97 percent of respondents that offer telecommuting options said they had no plans to cease such benefits.

Yet for all the popularity and growing acceptance of telecommuting, such policies have become a lightning rod for controversy recently. The most notable example of this contentious issue was the refutation of work-from-home options by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who ordered company employees to stop telecommuting. In the process, she ignited a debate on the merits and detractors of telecommuting. Through it all, at least one insight was gleaned: Telecommuting, no matter the personal opinions of a select few, is here to stay.

As such, HR professionals and company management need to address the issue of telecommuting by developing a strategy that is aligned with talent management aspects and employee needs. Policy-making is essential to maintaining a beneficial telecommuting position, and below are a few steps to take to ensure organizations reach that goal.

Keep Data Security in Mind
While new technology has been a boon to businesses and employees, it has also been a revelation for less scrupulous individuals. The issue of privacy and data security must be a primary concern for any firm that allows telecommuting.

To ensure data security is addressed, the first step is requiring employees who use personal devices to access company and client information to lock their devices with passwords. While that may seem like a simple enough function, it’s important that firms require alphanumeric keywords to lock personal devices. Consisting of capital and lowercase letters and numerals, such passwords are the hardest to crack and are needed to safeguard private data.

It’s also important for companies to weigh the pros and cons of storing information on public cloud platforms. Such channels for data storage are susceptible to breaches, and firms may do better to store and allow access through a virtual private network with a more secure connection.

Formulate Policy so Benefits Aren’t Diluted
One common problem that businesses run into when crafting a telecommuting policy is balancing the benefits of working from home with the needs of the office. Ensuring productivity is not lessened, while still maintaining a level of freedom, is paramount to a successful policy.

To do this, it’s critical that HR decision makers do not limit the aspects of telecommuting that make it attractive to workers, like requiring employees to check in on the hour. Instead, it should be sufficient that an employee is simply available through online messaging or video conferencing if others need to get in contact.

Additionally, the inherent flexibility of telecommuting needs to be protected under the policy to have it work toward better employee engagement. Having a schedule of planned work-from-home days is neither constricting nor hurtful to the effectiveness of a policy. Rather, it keeps everybody on the same page.

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