Telecommuting has transformed the way people think about employment and many companies have already proven the benefits of remote work policies. If you haven’t considered the option and don’t have a work-from-home policy in place, you shouldn’t reject such requests as difficult to manage or harmful for productivity. Approach the possibility of allowing remote work with an open mind.

Telecommuting benefits workers and their employees in settings where work doesn’t require a physical presence in the company’s facility. Similarly, some people make suitable candidates for remote employment, but others don’t have the character and discipline to work without direct supervision. Managers also need to have the proper mentality to make telecommuting successful.

When given proper consideration, remote work might not fit every manager, employee, and department in your organization, but you probably can make room for it in your company. The following five tips will help you handle your employee’s work-from-home-request so everyone involved can enjoy the benefits of telecommuting.

1. Consider Your Company Policy

You should tart evaluating your employee’s request by considering your company’s policies. If you don’t have a telecommuting policy in place, you might want to craft one before you approve any requests. The remote-work format can drastically improve the lives of your employees, but you should only embrace it if it also contributes to the mission of your company. In other words, the needs of the company should influence your decision about any telecommuting request.

Next, assess the employee’s job requirements. Some jobs demand the physical presence of employees, making telecommuting impossible for some staff members. Other jobs, however, readily lend themselves to remote work, making the employees that fill them excellent candidates for telecommuting. You might discover that you have many hybrid jobs that permit employees to work remotely at least some of the time while spending the rest of their time onsite. After a thorough review of the job requirements within your company, you can proceed to the next step.

6 Tips on Handling Your Employees’ Work-from-Home Requests

2. Make Sure the Employee Has the Right Qualities

After assuring telecommuting is a feasible option in your company, evaluate the employee making the request. Reliable employees who have a history of working well without direct supervision make good telecommuting candidates. Self-starters have the intrinsic motivation required to solve problems on their own and stay focused on completing tasks without someone continually looking over their shoulder.

You should also consider whether the employee needs access to sensitive information and the feasibility of providing the necessary network and physical security. Under every circumstance, you’ll need to know if would-be telecommuters have the Internet access, computing devices and workspace available at home to permit the execution of their responsibilities.

3. Embrace Digital Tools for Enhanced Collaboration

In the era of remote work, embracing digital tools is not just an option; it’s a necessity. From project management software to virtual communication platforms, these tools facilitate seamless collaboration across distances. Implementing a suite of digital tools can transform the remote work experience, enabling real-time updates, shared workspaces, and a central repository for all your project needs. For instance, tools like Slack for communication, Trello for project management, and Zoom for video conferencing have become indispensable in the remote work toolkit. By integrating these tools into your daily operations, you can ensure that your team remains on the same page, regardless of their physical location.

4. Think About the Rest of Your Staff

When you allow some employees to work from home while requiring others to work in your facility, you’ll face new issues. For example, hard feelings might arise that could hinder communication and dampen morale. Also, hybrid teams will need to learn how to use technology to bridge the gap between employees at the office and those working from home.

If you recognize too many uncertainties involved with an employee’s change to remote work, you might want to grant temporary approval to see how well everyone works together under the new arrangement. If necessary, give your teams time to adjust. Have new telecommuters make a gradual transition to remote work. Doing so will give everyone ample time to learn how to maintain their integrity as a team.

5. Weigh the Pros and the Cons

Before making any decisions, make sure you understand all of the advantages and disadvantages of remote work. Even though the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, all aspects of remote work should be considered carefully.

Telecommuting supplies workers with a healthy balance between work and their personal life that makes them more satisfied with their jobs. Allowing your employees to work remotely may increase their productivity by 10 – 20 percent. Remote workers also tend to stay longer with your company and thereby reduce the cost of employee turnover and reduce the floor space needed for your headquarters.

On the other hand, the lack of face-to-face communication, difficulties with managing remote workers and trust issues may be some of the reasons that could turn you away from allowing your employees to work remotely. Take both the positive and negative sides of telecommuting into consideration when making your decision.

6. Communicate Openly

Engage in honest dialogue with your employees who want to work from home. Find out the reasons behind their requests and actively question their assumptions and beliefs. Also, you need to clearly communicate your expectations to the prospective telecommuters, and let them know precisely how you will manage them and evaluate their performance.

Make sure your employee understands all the details telecommuting entails, so they can prepare themselves for the challenges they will face. Also, you should give attention to employees who can only consider working if you let them telecommute, so your business can continue drawing upon their knowledge and experience. Finally, let every candidate for telecommuting know that you will make the decision that makes the most sense for your company and the team.

7. Foster a Strong Remote Work Culture

Building a strong remote work culture is paramount for the success of telecommuting arrangements. This involves more than just allowing employees to work from home; it requires a deliberate effort to maintain connection, foster team spirit, and support employee well-being in a virtual environment. Encouraging regular virtual team-building activities, celebrating milestones together online, and promoting open and transparent communication are key strategies. Additionally, recognizing and rewarding achievements in a remote setting can significantly boost morale and motivation. By prioritizing these elements, companies can create a sense of belonging and community among remote workers, which is essential for long-term engagement and productivity.

8. Prioritize Mental Health and Work-Life Balance

The shift to remote work has blurred the lines between personal and professional life, making it more challenging for employees to disconnect and recharge. Prioritizing mental health and promoting a healthy work-life balance are critical in this new work paradigm. Employers should encourage regular breaks, flexible working hours, and time off to help employees manage stress and prevent burnout. Providing access to mental health resources, such as online counseling services or wellness apps, can also support employees’ well-being. By acknowledging the importance of mental health and work-life balance, companies can support their employees in achieving a healthier, more sustainable way of working remotely.

9. Make the Decision

During the decision-making process, use all the information available to you to make the best possible choice. When you feel uncertain about employees, you can let them work from home on a trial basis. Carefully monitor the behavior, attitudes, and productivity of all your employees, so you have the needed information to guide your telecommuting program and make adjustments as issues arise.

Wrapping It Up

Don’t overreact when employees ask you to let them work from home. Instead, respond to every request with careful planning and assessment and give your approval only when it serves the best interests of your company. Think of the entire team as you decide and encourage communication and feedback, so you can work together to make telecommuting successful for your company.

Image via Flickr user Steven Zwerink under C.C. 2.0 license

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. She spends her free time trying out new recipes or reading Scandinavian crime novels. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.