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A Telework Program For Your Small Business: The Why And The How

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What started in the 1980's and 1990's as web commuting, which was then termed telecommuting, and more recently coined teleworking is not a trend that is going away. In fact, working from home is getting increasingly popular and with advances in technology, quite feasible as well. According to a recent study conducted by The Polling Company on behalf of Citrix Online, nearly 25% of US workers and 41% of small business owners regularly work from home or another offsite location. As a home office owner and employer, it may be time to consider a telework program for your company.

First let's take a look at some of the benefits of teleworking programs.
  • Decreased costs in overhead and real estate. The average office space requirement is roughly 130 to 140 square feet per employee. Assuming a rental cost of $50 per square foot, a small business can save over $6,500 per teleworker, per year.
  • Increased productivity of workers by 25%-30%. This is attributed to less commute time, less stress, less distraction, and the ability for workers to manage their time better.
  • Better health of employees due to less stress and decreased sharing of viruses with other employees.
  • Better for the environment with less commuters on the roads.
  • Teleworking programs can be used to recruit and retain talented workers. According to The Polling Company's survey, 70% of workers 18-34 would welcome the opportunity to work from home.
  • Many businesses find they can take advantage of these benefits while allowing employees to telework even just part time.
Here are 6 tips on how to make your telework program successful.
  1. Establish a telework agreement so that it is clearly understood by both worker and employer what is expected. Depending on the business, some things to include in the agreement might be how many hours will be worked, what deadlines will be met, if the employee will be required to come into the office a certain number of hours or days per week, and how often they will be evaluated and on what criteria.
  2. If many or all of your employees are teleworkers, consider a newsletter, email or podcast that keeps everyone informed about what is happening in the company. As well as keeping them informed, these communications will also remind them that they are still part of a team. Conference calls and face to face meetings can also keep employees from feeling disconnected.
  3. Ensure a proper workspace for your teleworkers. That can mean supplying an ergonomic workspace for them or at a minimum giving them a guide on what they will need.
  4. Train them on how to work from home. Working from home may sound like a dream to most people, but it can sometimes be a difficult transition if they have to learn to use different technologies to connect to company based intranets or extranets, access their work email, and manage different kinds of distractions than they are used to in a traditional office.
  5. Supply them with the technology to do the job right. This would include a computer, software and intranet/extranet to access company documents and email. Without the right equipment teleworker's productivity will be diminished.
  6. For communication with your teleworkers, as well as their communications with customers, clients, potential customers and other co-workers, consider a virtual phone system or hosted PBX. Keeping all teleworkers on the same virtual phone system will reduce your costs, enable you to track calls made on the business line, still allow you to maintain one number for your business regardless of your employees' locations, and control the image that is portrayed when communicating with your customers by using professional automated attendants and system recordings.
In the recent survey by The Polling Company, the ability to work remotely was more highly valued by respondents than stock options and onsite child care. If your small business does not already have a telework program, it may be time to consider one. With the right program and technology your business will be reaping the benefits in no time.
Author Tim Paulino
Also known as the "virtual phone guy", Tim is a well-respected marketing and communications expert with over 14 years experience, helping thousands of entrepreneurs and small business owners. His writing and research focuses primarily on cloud-based virtual phone services that utilize toll free numbers with the latest voice and fax technology.
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