What should our goals be for a telecommuting program?
Each company and workforce will have different need s. You should carefully identify your needs and set your goals and objectives accordingly. Then conduct a pilot project to test your objectives as well as your policies, procedures, guidelines, training, communication solutions and measurement mechanisms. Review the pilot with program participants and make any necessary modifications before rolling telecommuting out to a larger portion of your employee population.

How should we choose participants for our telecommuting program?
It can be a struggle to determine the right candidates for telecommuting. However, one effective approach is to have employees tell you why they should be considered for telecommuting. Develop a written “questionnaire” that asks:

From these employee responses, managers can draw a baseline and then begin negotiations with the telecommuting candidates of choice. Only the best candidates, based upon the answers to the questions, get the telecommuting positions. Self-nomination also eliminates the subjective vs. objective selection process for managers.

Should management level employees be considered for telecommuting?
Everyone in your organization should have equal access to the program. Management level employees should answer the same questions as any other potential telecommuter. In addition, you should ask managers: "How will daily issues be resolved?" Get your managers to recommend solutions and a method of implementation.

How can we measure the productivity of our telecommuting workers?
Have employees provide a draft of how they would measure their own productivity. From this starting point, managers can begin negotiating a final standard.

How long should a pilot program run?
No single answer is right for everyone. The trial period is designed to test the effectiveness of your policies, procedures, guidelines, training, communication methods, and other components of the program. Our experience has shown that a reasonable trial period is three months or more. Use that time to test and de-bug all elements of your program. Program improvements or modifications can be added at any time. However long your pilot runs, you should review it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to monitor the progress of the program.

How should we structure a telecommuting task force?

Depending on the size of your organization, some of these duties may be shared by one or more individuals. However, the task force ideally should consist of 8 - 10 people -- and no more than 15.

Do all my teleworkers need to be trained?
Telecommuting involves change, and many times training can facilitate change. Some of the training issues include:

What will happen to our "team concept" once we introduce telecommuting?
Telecommuting does alter the team model somewhat, but you still need to think in terms of a team. Use the analogies of an orchestra or an emergency medical team. In both instances, each team member needs to practice and hone their skills and talents and be prepared to work in concert with teammates when the time comes, in order to play the music properly or save a life. Your actual model may be different, but the team concept must prevail. When managed as an orchestra or medical team, your telecommuting workers should be productive.

How will our non-telecommuting workers adapt to their telecommuting co-workers when they aren't at the office?
Communication is the key. When employees are at off-site meetings, on vacation, or ill, co-workers generally accept these absences because they are usually communicated. Telecommuting schedules must also be communicated. Managers should discuss telecommuter schedules at staff meetings and obtain non-telecommuting co-worker feedback. Co-workers should know how to contact telecommuters in the event of a business emergency. Telecommuters should post their schedules at the office, on their voicemail, and in their e-mail.

What will managers' biggest fears be about telecommuting?
Telecommuting employees sometimes cause managers to worry about trust and control issues. Identifying the manager’s worry, (such as: “I can’t see you therefore you aren’t working”) as a performance issue is the first step in changing the management style.