Now Your Contract Workers Can Telecommute, Too
Increasing gas prices and improving technology have made telecommuting an option for increasing numbers of workers and their employers. Even the federal government has expanded its telecommuting alternatives for workers. After the winter of 2009–2010, when federal agencies were closed for five days because of snow, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management introduced the "unscheduled telework" option to allow federal employees to telecommute when necessary. "Unscheduled telework supports and encourages the trend toward informal telework that we observed that winter and in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey," OPM director John Berry explains. Telecommuting options have been available for federal employees since 1996.
Those same forces are also driving staffing companies to offer telecommuting as an option for many of their clients and contract workers. It’s simply a way to retain better talent at a time when many people are concerned about the cost of commuting.
But establishing an effective telecommuting system requires more than simply exchanging phone numbers and email addresses. Many staffing companies that encourage telecommuting have established their own communication systems and training programs to ensure client satisfaction, and all should have clear guidelines for workers, who need to be productive in a situation that’s less easily supervised than an on-site setting.
As a client, if your staffing company recommends a telecommuting option, you should demand their involvement in ensuring its success. Don’t jump into it. You may want workers to start off on-site before allowing them to telecommute, then increase the telecommuting days gradually, as you see whether it works.
What you shouldn’t do is veto the telecommuting option out of hand for contract employees responsible for functions that can be easily done off-site. As the cost of commuting continues to rise, telecommuting may prove to be the best way to engage the highest quality employees. If your staffing company can help you accomplish it, why not give it a shot?