Remote work is more than a fashionable perk; it’s a lasting workplace trend that brings all sorts of benefits to both employers and employees. But if you’re going to offer it at your company, it’s important to implement a remote-work policy carefully, to make sure everyone gets the most out of it.
“One of the key things companies need to know about remote work is that it’s truly not just a perk for employees. There are very real, tangible, bottom-line benefits for the company,” says Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, an online resource dedicated to flexible and remote work. Those benefits include increased productivity, reduced costs and improved retention.
Here’s how to make remote work a success at your company.
Hiring remote employees is generally the same as hiring on-site employees, but there are a few differences, Reynolds says. First, it’s important for companies to clarify whether they’re hiring remote employees or freelancers, and to work with a vendor or have an expert on staff who can manage the tax and employment laws of multiple states.
In addition, as with on-site employees, employers should learn about security and privacy issues, and other legal issues surrounding remote work, Reynolds says. “These are very similar to the issues companies face when employees travel, or when they open up offices in different states or countries,” she says. “Ultimately it’s important to seek legal advice from a qualified professional who understands the specifics of remote workforces.”
One of the best things about implementing a remote-work program is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, Reynolds says. “Each company should tailor its program to meet its specific logistical needs, and there are many policies out there for companies to study. For example, if the company values the ability to have employees on-site for meetings with co-workers or clients, or because they feel face-time is sometimes needed, they might create a remote-work program that requires people to live in a certain region near the office.”
Reynolds says other things to consider when it comes to policies include:
Communication is the foundation of a strong remote-work program, Reynolds says. “A company needs to make sure a variety of communication methods are in place, and that it’s clear to both remote workers and in-office workers which methods are used for what,” she says. For example, a company may decide that instant messaging and phone calls are best for questions that need a fast answer, while email is acceptable for less-urgent issues. An online internal company message board can be a good way for workers to share “watercooler conversations” with each other remotely, Reynolds says.
Reynolds recommends a remote-work trial to help smooth out any wrinkles and make sure you have a strong program before you open it up to full-time or companywide implementation. During that time you can test your communication and work systems to ensure the program will be a success.
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