Some employers don't offer a telecommuting option because they're worried about how it might affect their operating costs or their relationship with their employees. Others worry about potential legal liabilities. While understandable, these concerns often result from a lack of first-hand experience with telecommuting. The following are some of the most commonly shared questions and concerns along with our answers, based on our experience with successful telecommuting programs.

QUESTION: "How do I know my employees are working if I can't actually see them?"

ANSWER: Even when you can see your employees, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're working. Create a telecommuting agreement which specifies what work they are going to do off-site and in what time frame. Then it will be easy to tell whether the work is getting done. Trust and communication are crucial for a telecommuting program to succeed.

QUESTION: "If I offer a telecommuting option to some employees, won't I have to offer it to all employees?"

ANSWER: You don't have to offer telecommuting to all employees. Telecommuting is a privilege, not a right, and your business needs must be the first priority. Not all tasks lend themselves to being done off-site, and not everyone really wants -- or is suited -- to being a telecommuter. You should first establish a telecommuting policy which specifies the needs and requirements for telecommuting and then make sure that any and all candidates for telecommuting qualify.

QUESTION: "How can I afford to equip everyone who qualifies for a home-based office?"

ANSWER: Not everyone needs the latest and greatest in computer equipment and high-speed access lines. Some employees may even be willing to pay for some or all of the costs. Typically, however, employers do pay for the costs of communications and data lines and for whatever technology is needed to ensure secure access to company files. Nevertheless, your costs could be quite affordable. Telecommute CT! can help you identify and quantify those costs.

QUESTION: "What are my Safety and Ergonomic issues"

ANSWER: As the employer, you should supply in-home office guidelines such as chair and desk height, plus specifications for wiring, lighting, and ventilation.

QUESTION: "What are my Workers' Compensation issues?"

ANSWER: An in-home office is an extension of the workplace. As an employer, you have the right to inspect in-home offices to make sure they comply with safety and ergonomic requirements.

QUESTION: "What are my Liabilities?"

ANSWER: As an employer, you should check with your legal advisors. Employees who work at home should check with their homeowner insurance provider.

REMEMBER: Trust and communication are the keys to a good working relationship with your employees who work off-site.