Telecommuting or teleworking is a practice that allows employees to complete their work assignments outside of their traditional workspaces. As an employer, when you are dealing with teleworkers, there are particular challenges that you may struggle with. These include creating a strong communication network and ensuring productivity.
This article will list some of the best practices for telecommuting to help employers plan their teleworking initiatives meticulously.
Telecommuting Best Practices for Employers
Telecommuting has been a consistent practice even before the pandemic. According to a survey, a significant number of employees worked from home in 2019, either full-time or part-time. Needless to say, this proportion has multiplied since then.
If you are an employer searching for telecommuting best practices vehemently, stop right here! Here are some tips that will surely help you:
Establish situation-specific teleworking policies
One of the most useful telecommuting best practices for employers will be to plan situation-specific teleworking policies. The purpose is to assist employees when there is any urgency.
For example, a situation like the Covid-19 outbreak can easily affect teleworking employees and their productivity. Hence, it is a must that your organization has a well-structured healthcare policy that supports the employees in such situations. This policy documentation can include factors like:
- Purpose of the policy
- Qualifying criteria
- Terms and conditions
- Steps to avail the benefits
Let’s elaborate on these factors below:
Purpose of the policy – In this part of the policy, make sure to discuss the objectives of the policy. The central goal of teleworking is to create a flexible remote work environment for the employees. However, when you are creating a particular policy, it should have its own specific goals. For example, if you are creating a healthcare policy for the teleworking employees, the goal can be employees’ wellbeing, mental health awareness, accidental protection, etc. So, make sure to include those goals.
Qualifying criteria – Next, you need to add a qualifying checklist for the policy. Not all employees may qualify under the policy. So, specifically, mention who all can apply to avail of the benefits. It could be employees of a certain age group, employees with certain physical/cognitive disabilities, employees with certain financial restrictions, and so on. Make these criteria clear in the policy.
Terms and conditions – Every policy should have certain terms and conditions. This section can include the validity of the policy, any respective date range to apply, and so on. These terms and conditions should be clearly highlighted for the teleworking employees to understand the process.
Benefits – This is probably the most important aspect of any policy or program. Remember that ultimately the employees are applying for a policy because they want to avail the underlying benefits. So, clearly include all possible benefits in this section. What are the facilities they will get, will there be any monetary gains or not, include everything.
Steps to avail the benefits – Finally, discuss the steps to apply for the teleworking policy. In this section, you can share a website link to apply for the policy or share the contact details of the concerned person who will help the employees in this process.
Make the most of collaboration tools
The appropriate technologies and collaboration tools can significantly impact the telecommuting workspace. Hence, as an employer, it is always good to use the right set of tools that can optimize collaboration among your internal teams.
For example, video conferencing tools like Zoom, WebEx, and Teams are perfect for conducting telecommuting team meetings. Employees who are struggling with the teleworking arrangement and prefer face-to-face meetings can stay connected with other team members through these tools.
Apply cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive information
It is very common for businesses to be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats, especially when employees are working remotely and are using unauthorized devices and internet connectivity.
Employers should formulate and communicate suitable guidelines with the employees to restrict any possibilities of cyber threats. For example, turning on two-step verification can be a good idea for your team inboxes to confirm that only registered employees have complete access to all the internal assets.
Add a transparent reimbursement policy for remote employees
One of the biggest concerns for teleworking employees is to claim reimbursements. In the telecommuting workspace setup, employees need to purchase several types of equipment, starting from laptops, printers, memory devices, etc. Employers should create an efficient process where employees can easily claim reimbursements for these activities.
Here are some reimbursement types that can be apt for teleworking employees:
- Business expenses reimbursement – The teleworking employees can qualify for business expenses reimbursements if they are engaged in business travel, training, or have paid any miscellaneous expenses.
- Medical expenses reimbursements – Employers can also provide medical expenses reimbursements to teleworking employees. Generally, employers reimburse a certain percentage of medical expenses to help out the employees in emergency situations.
- Employee stipends – According to many organizations’ policies, employees are subject to various stipends like health stipends, wellness stipends, teleworking set-up stipends, etc.
Telecommuting Best Practices for Employees
While employers play a significant role in creating a productive teleworking workspace, the responsibilities of employees are also noteworthy. Here are a few tips and telecommuting best practices for employees:
Focus on self-management and self-productivity
Teleworking employees are hugely responsible for self-management and self-productivity. Largely because they are not directly in touch with their supervisors and team members. Here are some tips to make this easier:
- Employees should start by creating a detailed plan after collaborating with their supervisors. This plan should include factors like expected tasks to be fulfilled, the relevant deadlines, involvement of other team members, possible interruptions, relevant fixes, etc. All these will help the employees to gain clarity over their job responsibilities, and there will be no room for confusion in the future.
- Winning supervisors’ trust is very important in a remote working setup. Employees can start by sticking to the deadlines. An employee who completes and delivers tasks within the stipulated deadlines is always reliable. Being a team player and interacting with all team members can also help the employees become a trustworthy co-worker.
- Time management is the secret sauce to employee productivity. Employees can start creating to-do lists, allocate a suitable amount of time to different tasks, and should not forget to plan breaks. Avoiding overwork or underwork is also important.
- Finally, employees must not forget to dress up. If an employee is feeling less productive in the telecommuting environment and feels like going back to the office, this simple practice can do wonders. It will help them treat the teleworking environment like the traditional workspace. Hence, employees can gain back their lost productivity quickly.
Build a comfortable work environment
A telecommuting work environment should be as comfortable as possible. So, employees must set up a workspace that suits them. Here are some tips:
- Adding all the essentials like laptops, mouse, keyboards, printers, or any other equipment is absolutely essential to boost the remote working experience.
- Being consistent and setting boundaries can also help. It is good for employees to take care of their physical and mental health and avoid excess stress. So, they should work hard during office hours, complete all deliverables and enjoy other activities afterward. In short, keeping professional and personal lives separate is the tactic.
- Staying organized is the key. Employees can plan their tasks so that household activities and job responsibilities don’t overlap.
Prioritize physical and mental health
If an employee has been telecommuting consistently, the situation can easily toll them. Hence, prioritizing their mental and physical health is very important. Eating healthy food and meditating regularly can also help the employees to maintain a healthy life.
Here are a few tips to improve mental health for teleworking employees:
- Employees should create a daily routine that breaks-down all tasks they are supposed to complete in a day and the relevant time duration. Sticking to this routine can help them stay productive and stress-free.
- Teleworking employees must be involved in activities other than work. This could be going to the gym, dancing, singing, painting, watching Netflix, or any other hobby they possess. This helps them stay refreshed, and concentrating on work won’t be a big deal.
- Teleworking employees can always work from co-working spaces. This will give them the vibe of the physical working environment, and they can meet other like-minded people who are also working remotely.
- Teleworking employees should realize that they cannot do everything. So, whenever they are feeling overwhelmed, it is a must that they say “no”. This will also help the supervisors to figure out how much work to assign to these employees.
Security Best Practices for Telecommuting
Employers who encourage telecommuting should not neglect the security aspects. Here are some security best practices for telecommuting that can help business owners to stay stress-free:
Never stop updating the programs
Allowing the employees to work on their personal devices is a huge risk. In the teleworking setup, employers must provide each employee with an authenticated device that your in-house IT team can track. Also, employers should suggest the employees keep updating the operating systems, apps, and browsers. That’s because old versions of the software are more prone to cyberattacks.
Use VPN connectivity
One of the significant telecommuting best practices would be to avoid using public Wi-Fi connections. Employers should enable VPN connectivity for all employees working remotely. It is a much more reliable and authenticated way to connect, and the possibilities of cyberthreats are much lesser. Enabling VPN connectivity allows employers to reduce non-essential browsing or block certain unsafe sites.
Ask employees to save and backup data consistently
Employers should always make it a point to instruct employees about consistent data backup. It should be a regular practice to save and back up their work progress safely. This practice will ensure that even though there are cyber-attacks, sensitive business data will never get lost.
Use password managers
One of the teleworking security best practices will be to start using password managers. It is an advanced tool that businesses can use to protect all the credentials in the same place. It generates powerful passwords for various web applications to reduce the chances of data theft. A password manager tool is encrypted with one master password that only the employer can know.
Some popular password managers that businesses can use include Zoho Vault, 1Password, Blur, etc. However, employers should also be well aware of the risks of password managers. A password manager stores all your credentials in one place. If the master password gets hacked for some reason, the repercussions will be destructive. So, be very careful if you decide to go for this practice.
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