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Companies see benefits of telecommuting programs

Technology has allowed businesses to improve the efficiency of their workforces by automating paperwork and streamlining operations.

Technology has allowed businesses to improve the efficiency of their workforces by automating paperwork and streamlining operations. It has also created additional flexibility as mobile devices and cloud computing give workers the ability to complete assignments from anywhere.

Companies have moved to take advantage of these technological advances to provide perks for their employees. A survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 80 percent of businesses offer telecommuting programs for staff members. Most of these firms have seen increased engagement and productivity through the programs and as a result, 97 percent of them state they have no plans to eliminate the option in the near future. However, managing remote workforces creates a number of unique challenges for businesses. Among these difficulties is determining which workers are capable of producing high-quality work from home or a remote worksite.

"Not every worker has the discipline and self-motivation to work from home on a regular basis, which makes it nearly impossible to have a blanket policy," John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said. "Every manager must determine whether telecommuting will be permitted on a case-by-case basis. And, if allowed, it must be continually monitored to ensure that the quantity and quality of the employee's output does not drop off."

Using reward programs to manage employees
Sales incentive programs can be a vital tool in measuring employee production. These initiatives provide a basis for measuring performance and allow managers to track changes in productivity over time. Employees who are unable to meet specific goals may not be top candidates for telecommuting programs. The reward programs can also be used to solve a number of other problems companies with remote workers face.

An online survey by Harris Interactive noted that collaboration and innovation were often lost in companies with high numbers of telecommuters. Eighty-one percent of respondents said that an office setting improved communication and coordination on large projects. Incentive programs can be used to encourage teams to meet regularly and discuss their assignments. In-person meetings and discussions were said to generate the best ideas by 83 percent of respondents, so team-based employee reward programs may push telecommuters to meet personally with team members to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Despite the disadvantages in communication, many employees prefer telecommuting because it gives them more flexibility to balance work and family. Of those surveyed by Harris Interactive, 83 percent said that having the option to work from home was a significant job perk, with 61 percent of them saying it would influence their decision to take or stay at a job. This makes telecommuting rewards a strong incentive for workers.

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