Done badly, a major telecommuting project might squander hundreds of thousands of dollars -- even millions.
Done well, it may save a company as much as $8,000 per home telecommuter over five years, if it's now paying rent of $20 a square foot. This figure doesn't encompass all pluses, including reduced absenteeism and turnover and easier recruitment. It does includes $800 a year paid in rent to each telecommuter.
Here are some tips for executives from telecommuting consultants Marcia Kelly and Gil Gordon and others, including U.S. Army officials in St. Louis:
Get top management's support and make sure the program can survive your departure. A successful telecommuting program at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta ended after its champion left.
Plan technically many months in advance, to allow for computer equipment to arrive and be debugged.
Try to use personal computers rather than "dumb" terminals, so telecommuters can send already-typed material to your computer instead of tying it up for long periods.
Realize that telecommuting isn't for the unwilling or for employes in need of traditional supervision. Writers, consultants, programmers, budget analysts may be your best prospects.
Allow for telecommuters to be rotated back to the office. Routinely tell them of promotion opportunities.
Encourage them to attend company social events.
Realize that telecommuting isn't a substitute for child care. Encourage telecommuters with young children to hire baby sitters.
Don't lower telecommuters' earnings just because they aren't going to the office. You may even be opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Some unions, worried about workers being shortchanged, have called for a telecommuting ban.
Carefully agree on goals with telecommuters and monitor their progress daily, if necessary. They might submit short written reports. In the end, by focusing on their work instead of their mien or dress, you'll likely be supervising them better than in the office.
Draft an agreement between you and your telecommuters listing everyone's rights, responsibilities and restrictions.