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Do you know where your employees are working?

Telework programs can provide myriad benefits if companies get the appropriate policies in place

By , Network World
October 19, 2009 08:35 AM ET

Network World - It’s time for ad hoc telework programs to be brought up to snuff.

Technology has enabled telework programs to evolve beyond images of people dialing up in pajamas to remote workers tapping advanced collaboration tools that increase productivity and ensure business continuity. In some cases, disaster recovery plans have spawned well-structured and documented telework programs. But at the majority of companies, there are no formal telework policies in place, even as more and more workers go mobile.

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“Telework is not just working from home; it is working from a location that is not the corporate office. Almost everyone today teleworks in one way or another,” says Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of The Telework Coalition. “Half of the workers know they do it, close to another half don’t realize they do it when they check e-mail from a hotel room or a BlackBerry, for instance, and a small percentage of certain types of employees might not do it at all. But easily 75% of companies don’t have official telework policies, despite employees working remotely often, which could be a problem.”

Here are 10 simple steps that can help organizations advance their telework programs from ad hoc to admirable.

1. Survey employees
The best place to start when establishing policies for remote work is with employees. Companies should survey staff to understand who would want to work remotely and why. Also consider the environment to determine if the type of positions could be supported remotely.

“It is critical for an organization to ask employees if they are interested in telework and what they would like to see in such a program,” says Cindy Auten, general manager for Telework Exchange. “Such surveys also help to lay a foundation for what degree of telework a company can support. The responses will help organizations establish a program suited to their employees and work environment.”

2. Perform cost analysis
The benefits of telework can range from lessened real estate and power costs for employers to fewer dollars spent commuting for employees. But depending on the business, the benefits of implementing a telework program might not immediately outweigh the costs. That’s why companies should invest some time upfront understanding how they can save money and increase productivity, experts say.

“The main driver for a successful, policy-based telework program is often the cost savings a company can realize,” says Lawrence Imeish, principal consultant for Dimension Data. “But companies need to understand how they can save costs, for instance in real estate, and implement the needed steps to achieve those savings.”

For example, if 10% of the workforce will be working remotely, companies could invest up to 10% less in corporate real estate or cut back on LAN expenditures, and instead invest that capital in technology to support remote work.

“Telework can become valuable and strategic if companies follow through with a program from start to finish,” Imeish says. “Understanding there could be savings but not changing investment plans could lessen the cost-savings benefit of telework.”

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