The idea of telecommuting makes more sense than ever, with the ease of communication, working in the cloud and other advancements. A recent story in Fortune quotes a 2013 study that shows occasional telecommuting is allowed in almost two out of three large businesses, but just one in three allow it on a regular basis. So working from home isn’t exactly sweeping the nation.
For small business owners considering a telecommuting policy — for themselves or their support staff — there are some fundamental ideas to ponder. Here’s a look at a few of them.
Focus on structure.
All the advantages of working from home will be lost without some firm boundaries during the workday. The structure is crucial, as Tamara Monosoff writes for entrepreneur.com.
“Yes, not having to don a suit every day, be in the office by 8 a.m. and be chained to your desk until 5 or 6 p.m. is liberating and possibly why you started your own business in the first place,” writes Monosoff. “But structuring your day in a way that works for you is imperative, especially with all the potential home-based distractions like spouses, children, housework, personal phone calls and more. Establishing structure will not only help you be disciplined and get your work done, it will also help the people around you know when you’re available — and when you’re not. If you’re running a business from home, communicate which hours are for work, and which areas of your home are work zones.”
Reach out early.
A weekend habit of snoozing until noon and lounging until mid-afternoon won’t fly during the week if you’re also trying to run a business. It may be difficult to resist the home lifestyle at first. As Judy Heminsley writes for The Guardian, reaching out beyond your walls will help.
“Make business calls first thing in the morning so you’re immediately hooked into life outside the house,” writes Heminsley. “It can also help you plan priorities for the day. Sometimes you might want a chat with friends or family, but take care that you’re not encouraging them to ring you during the working day when it could be a distraction.”
Try a telecommuting experiment.
A small business owner looking to extend the telecommuting offer to staff members could experiment with it before fully installing it as a policy. In a story for smallbiztrends.com, Curt Finch explores this idea, and quotes public relations consultant Julia Drake.
“Not every employee is cut out to be an at-home worker,” writes Finch. “Most employees have been conditioned to work in a micromanaged office environment and some may flounder when working independently. [Drake] solved this problem by instating a trial period for all possible hires. ‘I spent about six months to a year with them to make sure they possessed the right work ethic and the ability to work independently without a boss breathing down their neck,’ Drake said. ‘It takes ambition, discipline and a passion for what you do. It takes a certain type of person.’”
Consider the benefits.
If all elements of the structure work out to allow employees to work from home, it could be a major morale boost.
As Daniel Newman writes for Yahoo Small Business, “Happier employees get more done. In many cities, employees deal with a grinding commute, only to sit in an office where they interact very little with their coworkers. Whether the telecommuting arrangement is permanent or just a weekly flex day, the reduced travel and stress can provide a tremendous boost in employee morale.”