There’s no doubt that fuel prices, especially in California, are causing people to re-think how they get to work. Tension in key parts of the world where we get our oil from is making it obvious that they aren’t going to be going down any time soon, either.
Carpooling, SMART trains and other alternative transportation methods are also quickly rising in popularity as people search for ways to not only save money in fuel costs, but also help protect our environment by keeping automobiles in their owners’ garages and not puffing exhaust into the air while sitting at stop lights. On this list is the ultimate gas saver, telecommuting.
Telecommuting, the once seldom considered method of working from home (or on the road) is fast on the rise as well. Small and medium sized business owners love the advantages Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) offer them and their workers – such as reduced commute time (eliminated, really), a more flexible work schedule (after hours productivity has never been easier) and increased employee morale (“You get to work from home? Lucky!”). In this day in age, the reasons NOT to telecommute are quickly disappearing in light of the advantages it provides.
Of course, telecommuting alone does NOT provide an instant new-age utopia for you and your workforce. Here are some suggestions to keep everyone productive and happy when you start offering the option:
- Keep in contact. Telecommuting causes an obvious physical distance between you and your coworkers. Scheduled meetings or check-ins, either via telephone or online services such as instant messaging or Skype, provide a great way to keep in touch.
- Video conferencing makes all the difference. Speaking of Skype, the greatest thing you can do for your telecommuters is set up video conferencing for face-to-face meetings. Skype, Ekiga and other videoconferencing solutions are a perfect way to provide a virtual presence for your team – just make sure they turn on their webcam AFTER getting dressed and making themselves as presentable as if they were going to an in-person meeting. Nobody wants to see you in your underwear with cowlicks in your hair. Seriously.
- Introduce it slowly at first. Just because you offer your employees the option to work from home doesn’t mean you’re giving them a one-way ticket to ditch coming into the office forever. As a way to introduce telecommuting, do it slowly at first. A good method is to offer a once-a-week “Telecommuting Day”. This gives you a great way to figure out how to use it to your best advantage, while making sure everyone still knows that their primary place of work is at the office. As the kinks are ironed out and telecommuting becomes more engrained into your normal office flow, you can loosen the leash and allow it when it makes most sense to everyone.
- Set guidelines. Remember the episode of The Simpsons where Homer starts telecommuting to work? Remember the scene of him wittingly setting up a drinking bird toy to hit “Y” on the terminal’s keyboard, causing a near nuclear meltdown at the power plant? Make it clear that you are keeping tabs on the quality of work, deadlines and other things even more than before. Just like driving, enforce the rule that “telecommuting is a privilege, not a right”.
- Use it to your advantage. Telecommuting offers many advantages other than working in a robe (remember..no webcam!). Business trips are a perfect example of some additional benefits of using technology to provide access to your network from afar – those who travel as part of their job will still be able to get to everything they need as if they were sitting at their desk. Another example is enabling people to be productive even after they go home. Did you forget to print that document before you left? No worries – you can hop on the network and print it out (on the printer at your office, even) in just a couple of minutes, instead of having to drive all the way back at 10pm.
Telecommuting is a great way to avoid drastically rising fuel prices and also provide a modern, productive virtual work environment (not to mention it helps reduce carbon emissions, one car at a time). Use this technology not only to save time and money, but to make your team more productive than ever – Consider telecommuting!