Telework is one of the fastest growing work trends in America today, because it benefits both employers and employees while saving everyone money and time. But for a telework program to be successful, it is important that employers ensure that the job, employee and manager are all the right fit for telework.
Telework (also called telecommuting) is working at home or a satellite office near home one or more days a week instead of commuting to the main office or place of business. The obvious benefit of telework to employees themselves is the time and money saved from not commuting. Working from home also has significant environmental benefits – reducing traffic congestion and Greenhouse gas emissions – and positive social repercussions like stress reduction and more time for family and personal life.
But for employees to be efficient and employers to benefit, companies need to develop telework policies to ensure that the teleworker has the right kind of job, the right work habits and the right home environment, said Kathy King, partner liaison for Commute Options. King spent more than 20 years focused on training employers on telework practices for the Oregon Department of Energy before she began consulting for Commute Options.
The first step is to make sure that the employee’s job includes enough tasks that they can perform at home, said King. Technology-related jobs are a great fit, but there is more to it than that. Each person is different and may be motivated differently. If a person has been with the company for six months or more, an employer should be able to evaluate if the employee can work well independently or is more motivated by others working around them.
“You need to have the right teleworker, but also a manager who is capable of managing with work objectives and measuring deliverables without having to watch employees all the time,” said King. A successful telework arrangement requires a manager with measurements in hand to be able to make sure that employees are efficient in their work.
When deciding who should telework and who should not, a clear company policy that governs fairly among all positions should be in place to determine whether a situation is appropriate for telework. “The decision to allow telework should not be based on whether employees are part-time or full-time, but instead on the job and whether the person can accomplish deliverables in a telework environment,” said King.
If all of these factors are in place, telework can really benefit everyone. Teleworkers spend less time and money on commuting. They often benefit from improved productivity because they work in a quieter environment with fewer interruptions, allowing them to focus more on work tasks. Many teleworkers find they have less stress and better quality of life related to time gained in their day due to a lack of commuting. Employers who allow telework benefit by reduced overhead costs; employers can save on utilities and make more efficient use of limited office and parking space.
Guidelines for creating telework opportunities for employees, including a sample telework agreement and sample telework policy, can be found at the Oregon Department of Energy’s website at http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/TRANS/Pages/telework/telehm.aspx. For additional assistance in adding a successful telework program in your workplace, contact Kathy King at Kathy@commuteoptions.org.
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information about Commute Options, contact Jeff Monson, Executive Director of Commute Options at 541/330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.
Annissa Anderson is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Bend.