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Frequently Asked Questions

Considering a telework program? Then the following answers to some common questions may be helpful:

What does Teleworking offer me, the manager?

A successful telework program can improve organizational efficiency, raise the quality and quantity of work, boost employee morale and job satisfaction, and lower your employee turnover rate. In addition, the enhanced communication that a telework program fosters can further develop your own skills as a manager.

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How productive are employees when they are not in the office?

Many teleworkers report that they are able to focus on work better without the distractions of the office. The Maryland Department of Transportation reported a 27% increase in productivity due to telework, and American Express employees who telework produce 43% more business than their non-teleworking counterparts. In addition, managers are usually pleasantly surprised to find that their employees are more accessible while teleworking.

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How do you know that teleworkers are working?

From their results – if a teleworker is not finishing assignments or meeting deadlines, you'll know. Set objectives, trust that your teleworkers are spending their time wisely and then review how each one is able to meet his or her goals. Most importantly, pick the right people for the program. If an employee performs well in the office, most likely they'll perform well away from the office.

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Will I ever see the teleworker?

The manager decides when and how often a teleworker is away from the office. Most teleworkers aren't away from the office more than one or two days a week. And again, communication doesn't stop when the employee is teleworking. Instead, some of the face-to-face communication is replaced with the phone, email, videoconferencing and instant messaging.

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How difficult and costly is it to establish and administer the program?

This depends on several factors:

  • Size of company and number of teleworkers
  • Type of information technology used
  • Goals of program

The process for setting up a telework program can be as simple as:

  • Developing a written policy and employee agreement
  • Announcing the program to staff
  • Selecting and training participants
  • Providing necessary equipment and secure remote access capabilities
  • Implementing the program

Organizations often start with a small-scale pilot program, which they later expand after gaining experience through the pilot. It's also helpful to have a designated telework "champion" to oversee the process and work with other key individuals within the organization, such as information technology personnel, human resources personnel and the facilities management staff.

Large-scale programs include a major commitment to planning and implementing. The involvement of the IT Department is extremely important. A telework program sometimes requires continued investments of money and staff, but these costs are quickly recovered in other savings (i.e., real estate, parking, improved efficiency, reduced retention/recruitment costs). In some cases, the Return on Investment (ROI) can be has high as 200% to 1,500% after three years.

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How does working at home affect dependent care issues?

Teleworkers should understand that teleworking is not a substitute for dependent care. Although teleworking may be attractive to people who want to be closer to home for personal reasons, dependent care arrangements still need to be made. This principle should be included in your program's telework agreement, which all teleworkers sign.

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Who pays for charges such as increased electricity and phone charges?

Many employers pay for company phone calls, but not for increased electricity from computer use. This should be noted in the telework agreement.

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Is there an ideal percentage of employees who should telework?

This depends on the nature of your business, the type of work performed by employees, the suitability of an employee to work away from the office, the corporate culture, the technology available and the interest of your employees.

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Will everyone want to telework?

Most likely not all of your employees will want to telework. Local studies have shown that approximately 21% of non-teleworkers "could and would" telework if given the opportunity to do so. Some employees prefer to keep their home and workplace separate, others prefer the social contact with work colleagues and some may have jobs that are not suitable for teleworking. We recommend that managers offer a range of options for teleworking, from teleworking just one day per month, to teleworking only in special situations such as inclement weather, to teleworking several or more days per week. Keeping an open mind and selecting the right candidates for your program will ensure success. (Source: COG 2010 State of the Commute)

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How does teleworking affect morale and productivity among workers who continue to work on-site?

When a telework program is implemented properly and the teleworker selection process is clear and objective, negative effects on the morale and productivity of non-teleworkers can be minimized. It is important to clearly communicate to all employees that teleworkers are selected on the basis of their job functions and their work performance characteristics. It is also critical that an employee's telework arrangement does not increase the other employees' workloads. When management does not handle the transition carefully, objectively and transparently, jealousy and resentment can arise from non-teleworkers who mistakenly believe that teleworkers are not really working. In other instances, co-workers are not interested in teleworking, but respect those who do. Managers need to ensure that all employees are treated equitably when it comes to expectations and performance, regardless of where they are working. Employees who telework more than two or three days per week should be encouraged to visit the office to maintain personal relationships with colleagues and supervisors. As with any organizational change or shift, communication is the key to its success!

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Will teleworking cause extra work for other colleagues? Will they be burdened with teleworkers' work?

This is a common myth, but implemented properly, a telework program should not cause any extra work for non-teleworkers.

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Do I need to have a pilot program?

A pilot program can offer your company a test-run on teleworking without full immersion. It's a great way to experiment with how a telework program will affect your company, helping you find out what works and what doesn't, and allowing you to improve shortcomings before a full-fledged execution. We recommend a cross section of positions, staff and systems for pilot programs.

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Will employees and supervisors need training before beginning a teleworking arrangement?

Introducing a telework program can be a major change in the way an organization does business; hence, training is strongly recommended. Telework!VA provides online training for teleworkers, non-teleworkers and managers. At a minimum, training should cover your organization's telework policy and agreement, eligibility criteria based on the job and employee characteristics, establishing trust, improving communication, planning and organization, home office set-up, remote access procedures, IT security and performance.

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How do I ensure safety and ergonomic issues?

It is the employee's responsibility to maintain a safe and productive home office environment. This is typically addressed in the telework policy, by having the employee complete a home office safety checklist and through training. There are a variety of online resources that can assist the teleworker in ensuring that their alternate work site is safe, and help them understand how ergonomics can affect their physical well-being.

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Can I require employees to telework?

Private sector employers can require teleworking as part of their working arrangement, but most experts do not recommend this unless the employee was hired under a telework/remote work provision. Forcing an employee to telework may be counterproductive, and while a job may be suitable for teleworking, some employees' personalities are not. Some people feel out of the loop and isolated working off-site. Others have difficulty managing their time independently, or are not able to block out distractions in a remote office environment.

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What if teleworking doesn't work?

Sometimes teleworking doesn't work. If a teleworker's quality of work declines, treat it as you would any performance issue. Review the telework agreement and give your employees a chance to improve. Your telework agreement should include a clause stating that either the employer or the employee can cancel the telework agreement for operational or performance issues. If projects or environments change, then the teleworking program might have to change too.

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Are there any government incentives for doing a telework program?

In some localities, there are tax credits or funds available to start or expand a telework program. Employers should check with their local government to research any incentives at the local level. Go to the Tax Credit page to find out what's available for qualified Virginia employers. Click here to learn about telework programs in other states.

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Are there any union issues concerning teleworking?

By their nature, unions are designed to look after their members' best interests, and thus, frequently are very interested in the issues surrounding telework. Some of the concerns that unions have raised over the years involve ensuring an equitable selection process, allowing employees in the policy development process, and avoiding higher production goals that are not accompanied by a commensurate increase in compensation. You should work with your unions from the onset of your program.

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