Employers' Guide to Better Telecommuting
Learn how to implement telecommuting effectively and sustainably in your organisation.
Research has shown that flexible work arrangements (FWAs) are growing in popularity amongst employers and employees alike. For progressive organisations, telecommuting can be part of business continuity planning, ensuring that operations proceed seamlessly even when faced with unforeseen disruptions and challenges.
- Determine the suitability of job roles for telecommuting
An important first step is to determine each job role within the organisation and list the tasks that each job scope entails. This will help employers quickly identify the jobs that can be carried out remotely, and are thus, suitable for telecommuting.
Note that job suitability for telecommuting is dependent on the actual tasks carried out by employees rather than job title or seniority in the organisation. For instance, roles that are mainly administrative and require minimal face-to-face interaction, can be considered for telecommuting. However, roles that require frequent direct contact with colleagues or clients, may still need to be office-based. In this case, organisations may consider a split-team arrangement, and assign employees to different teams which will have alternating work schedules. For example, Team A may work from home in the first week, while Team B works from the office, and this arrangement will alternated in subsequent weeks.
- Equip employees for remote working
Employees will require the necessary infrastructure to telecommute successfully. Employers can provide equipment such as laptops and security devices which enable employees to securely access work documents from home, without compromising company confidentiality. Singapore also has high home internet and broadband access rates*, giving employees a fast and reliable internet connection when needed.
Having a conversation with your employees to determine if they have a conducive workspace at home. For example, do they have a dedicated area for work where they can carry out tasks safely and uninterrupted? Do they also have a secure storage space for confidential documents if needed? Employees with young children may also need to make child-minding arrangements for the hours that they are working from home. An honest and open conversation can help employers assess if an employee is a suitable candidate to telecommute.
*According to Infocomm Media Development Authority's 2018 Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage in Households and by Individuals, the home internet and broadband access rates were 97.7% and 97.2% respectively.
- Set measurable key performance indicators
When employees know exactly what is expected of them, they can work towards meeting these goals - whether in office or working remotely. Setting tangible, measurable and time-sensitive targets will help employees to keep on-task, and also enable supervisors to accurately monitor the progress of specific projects, even as teams work remotely.
- Establish healthy communication protocols with your teams
Good communication is vital in a flexible work arrangement. When telecommuting, both employer and employees will need to prioritise frequent communication to prevent lags and disruption to business operations.
As a best practice, set behavioural expectations for your employees and clearly communicate these upfront. These may include response time to customer calls, accessibility to co-workers and clients, weekly progress reports, attending meetings remotely, and even a daily check-in time.
Highlight to your employees that these processes are intended to cultivate mutual trust and ensure seamless job operations, rather than mere monitoring procedures. Having a telecommuting policy may help to reinforce expectations as well.
- Get Management buy-in
FWAs such as telecommuting are most effective when Management recognises the benefits, and fully supports the initiative. HR and Management will need to work together to clearly define and articulate the goals of implementation (e.g. telecommuting allows employees to continue working from home, thereby minimising the impact on company operations and safeguarding the safety and health of employees).
With this, the structure for successful telecommuting can be devised using the earlier steps and refined for your specific organisation. With forward-planning and strong communication, employers can successfully leverage FWAs to remain resilient even when faced with unexpected business challenges.
For more resources and tools on implementing telecommuting and other FWAs, visit tafep.sg.