Approximately 20 percent of workers around the world telecommute frequently, according to a 2012 survey by Reuters.  As technological advances progress and their use becomes more widespread, that percentage is likely to increase.  But while telecommuting makes sense for many businesses, employers need to be wary of potential pitfalls when deciding whether this practice is right for them. 

Telecommuting can be informal, such as working from home on a short-term project.  However, companies contemplating formal telecommuting should put a solid and efficient policy in place before the first telecommuter heads for his or her home office.  Without it, rules and boundaries may be blurred, creating a huge risk for the company. Productivity may diminish and employee relations may suffer. 

Before entering into a telecommuting agreement, the manager and employee, with the assistance of the human resources department, should evaluate the suitability of such an arrangement. Both parties must assess the needs and work habits of the employee to determine whether they are appropriate for successful telecommuters. In addition, they need to discuss job responsibilities to determine if the job is suitable for a telecommuting arrangement. Equipment needs, work space design considerations and scheduling issues are also important factors to consider. 

The manager and employee should also agree on the number of days of telecommuting allowed each week, the work schedule the employee will customarily maintain and the manner and frequency of communication. The employee should be accessible by phone or email during the agreed upon work schedule. 

If both parties agree on all points, a telecommuting agreement should be prepared and signed before a trial period begins. However, even if the trial period is successful, circumstances may change. If the employee cannot complete assigned tasks or the work required necessitates time in the office, employers and employees should have an opportunity to terminate the arrangement. 

Telecommuting does not work if clients are not well served, if the employee feels isolated from others and cannot complete his or her work, or if the employee’s colleagues are being negatively affected by the telecommuter’s absence from the office. 

If orchestrated properly, telecommuting can serve as an excellent way to satisfy the needs of both employer and employee.  It should not be considered an entitlement, but as a company-wide benefit. 

Article provided by Insperity (NYSE: NSP), a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 28 years. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace.  Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution.  Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services.  Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees.  With 2013 revenues of $2.3 billion, Insperity operates in 57 offices throughout the United States.  For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit http://www.insperity.com.