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4 Guidelines Your Telecommuting Policy Needs

Recently, I told you about Telework Week and recommended that you embrace employee requests to work from home. After all, it is reported to improve productivity and morale, while actually saving the business money. What's not to love?

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you just let everyone start working from home without any sort of process and policy. Do you have a telework agreement in place in your office? If not, you should. It doesn't have to be especially complicated, lengthy, or rich in legalese. But here are 4 things you should get in writing now, before you start a telework program in your office:

1. Start with a probationary period. The first few weeks or months should be a considered a probationary period in which the employee's direct manager tracks performance and issues resulting from being out of the office very carefully. You might ask for additional status reporting or more frequent phone call check-ins during this period.

2. The work-from-home day is just a guideline. I've seen this happen in my office: Some employees come to see their telework say as an entitlement, and do really stupid things -- like skip a face-to-face meeting or company all-hands -- because it was their work-from-home day. You might need to help save these sorts of people from themselves by articulating up front that common sense should dictate when to miss a teleworking day because coming into the office takes priority.

3. Specify status reporting guidelines. One worry that many bosses have about telworking programs is that employees won't work as effectively at home as when in the office. There's a lot of evidence that shows that's not true, but you should articulate requirements about status reports -- both the frequency and content -- in your guidelines.

4. Be available. Your employee is no longer 2 desks away, so to prevent misunderstandings and frustration downstream, be deliberate about what kind of communication lines the employee must maintain. Should he be available by IM, e-mail, and cell phone during business hours? Maybe just IM? Decide now and you'll have a smoother office when folks are working from home, especially since a smart but flexible guidelines will let folks run errands, work at Starbucks, and deal with the kids while still being available and effective.

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