Read any number of staffing, recruiting, or HR blogs, and you’re sure to find a handful of topics that pop up over and over again. Telecommuting is absolutely one of those “hot” topics. More and more organizations are making flexible work arrangements part of their standard offering, particularly in the creative and technology industries.
Wondering what I know about telecommuting? I am the first member of the Synergis/sync team that works 100% remotely. I spent 6 ½ years working at various advertising agencies in Atlanta as an integrated project manager. But, after my (now) husband and I got engaged in 2013, I started thinking more seriously about our long-term goal of relocating to North Carolina. During my interviews, I was open with the Synergis/sync leadership team about my goal of breaking into recruiting as well as finding a flexible work opportunity that could be done remotely from NC. The company already had a flexible culture that encourages occasional telecommuting among its many benefits, so management was open to the potential arrangement. Less than a year after I started working at sync, we moved to Chapel Hill and I was working remotely from my home office. As a creative recruiter, I’ve placed remote telecommuting candidates with our clients and have seen how various companies have found success getting the best candidates on the market through offering a more flexible work environment.
As tomorrow’s workforce demands more flexibility (as of September, nearly 40% of US workers considered themselves “independent” workers), companies that offer more flexibility and telecommuting opportunities are poised to attract and land top talent. While every organization (and position) is different, here are four factors you need to consider to help you determine whether telecommuting can work for your company:
- Telecommuting gives organizations unprecedented access to talent. Every organization wants to hire great talent, but sometimes the best talent is across the state (country, or even across the globe). With the ability to collaborate with teams virtually, aided by many helpful tools, I can now tell clients that we can find the best talent for their open positions. Companies who embrace alternative work environments no longer have to worry about being located in a small city when the best talent for their needs is nestled in a bustling metropolis. An expanded candidate pool means better hiring decisions and ultimately, better results for our clients.
- Your organization can still maintain a strong company culture. I can personally attest to the fact that working from home can sometimes make me feel a bit, well, lonely. Being physically separated from the rest of the Synergis/sync team offers some unique challenges. Thankfully, the rest of our team — and especially our leadership — has evolved many of our team practices to accommodate telecommuting employees. This maintains our strong team culture, regardless of where we’re located. Nurturing strong employee relationships and culture is critical to all organizations, but is especially important to organizations with remote employees. At one of our client sites, remote employees are actually “present” in the office using extremely clever technology. Sit in on a meeting and you may sit “next” to a team member who is in fact “present” remotely through a tablet device attached to a Segway-like moving device. While I don’t have a Segway (yet!), Synergis/sync does promote collaboration through daily and weekly meetings where we are able to both take care of business and share some of the “water cooler” chatter that I may otherwise miss. Providing a sense of connection to the team, while keeping everyone on track with work and critical to-do items, is key to successful telecommuting.
- Technology can make things much more seamless. While you may not need (or want) robotic tablets zooming through your halls, there are other new technologies emerging every day that promote virtual collaboration and productivity. Our sync team loves the Google suite of products. From collaborating on Google Docs to using Hangouts for video meetings, or G-chat to send quick leads or client notes (or fun tidbits we come across throughout the day), we rely on technology (Thanks, Google!) to ensure everyone is communicating properly. They also help us maintain and even build on our strong culture. Remember, hosting meetings where everyone can see each other’s faces is really helpful, and goes much further than simply picking up the phone.
- Putting in your due diligence is necessary. Telecommuting has come a long way over the past few years, yet it still requires companies to take the time to honestly assess their organizational structure and technical investment, as well as individual roles. While telecommuting works for me as a recruiter at Synergis/sync, it would not have worked for me in my previous role at an ad agency. Telecommuting isn’t something you can implement overnight, so consider doing a test run before making a full commitment. Offering partial telecommuting — where certain employees can work from home one or two days a week — is one way to test things out. From there, you could use telecommuting as a reward. Perhaps after six months or a year of tenure, high-achieving employees can earn a higher percentage of telecommuting days. Depending on how these experiments go, you can establish some criteria for determining future telecommuting-eligible employees.
Ultimately, telecommuting can work for many organizations and employees, but take your time to determine the right circumstances as well as its effectiveness. Individual managers should determine whether telecommuting employees could work within their teams. Everyone has to be on board and 110% committed. It takes trust from both sides. My immediate managers here at sync, Stephen Stringer and Janna Tucker, have been outstanding in supporting me as the first, 100% remote employee. They trust all of us on the sync team to get our work done and do our jobs well, without micromanagement.
Has your organization implemented telecommuting? What results have you seen?