Want to Attract and Retain Top Talent? Offer Remote Work or Telecommuting

To attract and retain skilled and creative employees, many companies are overlooking a perk that could help them snag top hires: The chance to work away from the office. All companies from small to large and across industries are able to offer this as a perk -“ with a plan in mind. Size should not dictate whether a company offers remote work or telecommuting. So what does it take?

Arrangements for one of your employees to work away from your office may be as simple as an Internet connection. Advances in technology and the ready access to websites, e-mail, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, electronic faxing and Internet phones have enhanced every company’s ability to offer employees the option of working from home or a remote location. Systems can now be set up that allow a virtual office. To customers, the connection is seamless, with quality services offered regardless of where your employee is located. For employees, the perks of working at home or at a remote location near home lead to perks for you as the employer. Remote employees enjoy shorter commute times, flexible work hours, comfortable work environments, privacy and reduced personal work expenses. Employers gain with enhanced productivity, expanded hours of operation, lower overhead costs, access to a larger pool of quality workers, stronger team collaboration and inspired creativity. Remote workers may also add to a company’s geographic accessibility to customers or resources.

Initiating and maintaining an individual employee or a group of employees in a home or remote office location does require planning and oversight. Some tips and insights gathered through personal experiences as an employee and as a manager in both office-based and home-based work environments include:

  • Understand your company’s needs and the tasks of each employee.

  • Be prepared to measure an employee’s contribution in clear qualitative and quantitative objectives. The number of hours worked by an employee is helpful when calculating payroll but should be viewed differently in a remote work setting.

  • Provide internet accessible software with security features.

  • Assist employee with setting up and maintaining home office. Minimal needs include a computer, telephone and internet access with modem and router. Internet phones have many advantages. Determine if you want to pay for other items, such as, furniture, copy machine, shredder, desk supplies and arrange method for purchase, reimbursement or provision.

  • If shipping is needed, arrange a shipping account and clear instructions for use.

  • Provide training and support to the remote employee. Initial and periodic training at office location is highly recommended. Clarify primary contacts for each remote employee.

  • Establish clear expectations of quantity of work to be completed in a particular time frame, such as a day, week or month. Clarify for both employee and manager the method of measurement. An internet based timesheet offers collection, monitoring and analysis capabilities.

  • Establish clear expectations of particular times and amount of time employee needs to be available. Be realistic based upon objectives of employee’s tasks to be accomplished.

  • Establish a means for monitoring an employee’s time and availability. This can be accomplished through an Internet or phone notification or shared calendar. Use of some form of instant messenger provides easy access to viewing an employee’s availability and offers direct communication.

  • Encourage communication and collaboration both among remote employees and with office staff with specific guidelines for use of tools, such as, instant messages, e-mails, telephones and internet chats.

  • Schedule recurring and ad hoc teleconferencing or videoconferencing to join small groups of staff or larger teams to enhance camaraderie, share information and collaborate on company goals and action plans. Remote employees should have at minimum a weekly scheduled meeting with a team, individual supervisor or other member of the team.

  • Based upon proximity to company office, offer remote employees option of attending monthly or weekly meetings in person, depending on nature of the work.

  • Arrange opportunities on an annual basis for personal contact and provide financial support for employee to attend a company conference or team meeting with time for continued training and personal sharing.

  • Keep in mind that not every job lends itself to remote work but remain open to option of employee’s ability to occasionally work at home. Manufacturing and direct service industries have on-site requirements but an occasional work-at-home day could provide opportunity for an employee to complete on-line training, planning or preparation of performance reviews.

  • Being prepared with a contingency plan for at-home work can save productivity during disruptions caused by weather or other events.

  • Remain open to a diversified workforce. Remote work offers the flexibility that may be required due to permanent or temporary physical or personal obstacles encountered by a talented workforce.

With these guidelines in mind, your business can be on its way to offering this perk to attract and retain talent.

Barbara DeGray, RN-BC, CRRN, MBA, is director of Nurse Case Management at Managed Care Advisors, a woman-owned small business specializing in workers’ compensation case management services, employee benefits and disability management consulting. Barbara works remotely and currently manages a remote staff of 20 employees. She can be reached at www.managedcareadvisors.com.