With the introduction of the 'right to request flexibility' National Employment Standard in January 2010, employers have been paying closer attention to their policies and procedures for handling flexible work requests.
The ability to telecommute or work from home is a popular choice for flexible working, but many employers understandably become nervous about creating a benchmark for others to follow.
How should you deal with telecommuting requests?
* Firstly, ensure you have the following policies: a Flexible Work Policy, Telecommuting Policy and an OH&S Policy.
* Create a procedure for employees to follow to have the requests reviewed appropriately.
* What percentage of their work time are they wanting to work from home? Is it half the time, a quarter of the time, or all the time? This will impact on your decision.
* What is their role? Is it feasible? Break the role down into different components and tasks. What could be done outside of office hours from home? What can be done by accessing the work system and using a telephone during the day?
* Does the employee have an adequate work space at home?
* Is the employee working from home to save on childcare costs? Distractions can be an issue if the employee has to be 'on call' during the day. This should be addressed in the Telecommuting Policy.
* Can staff members login from home easily? The key to to working from home effectively is to ensure employees can just as productive outside of the office, and be able to communicate with other employees easily.
* Does the employee have a track record for working either at home or flexibly? Is the employee the right style of person to work from home. Ask the question to the employee.
* Implement a communication plan to keep tabs on productivity.
* Offer a trial period so you don't lock yourself into a long term arrangement if it doesn't work out.
* Ensure everything is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you have procedures and paperwork to back up your decision, it will make it easier to be transparent when you are making decisions for other requests.
* In general, people who request flexibility are at a point where the current status quo is not working for them. Be careful not to dismiss the idea quickly or you may be looking at recruitment costs and training for a new starter.
For assistance in creating telecommuting procedures and a flexible work handbook, ask us about our Flexible Work Proposal Toolkit.