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One of the easiest ways to reduce the effect of your commute to work is not to travel at all.

Telecommuting (or working from home) allows staff to work without being interrupted and can be good for staff who need to be at home, whether occasionally or full-time.

The benefits for an employer include:

Telecommuting isn't for everyone.

Vet working from home

The most suitable positions are those where there is a discreet and generally self-contained piece of work. For example, these might include project work and policy analysis, research, planning and writing.

Many employers are daunted by the prospect of introducing telecommuting-don't be.

If managers are unsure about how to handle telecommuters, they and the staff may just want to trial the idea on a temporary or occasional basis. The challenge is to move from a culture of attendance to one of performance. If your staff are already assessed by the work they do rather than if their jacket is on the back of their chair, then you're probably ready for telecommuting!

At the heart of any successful telecommuting practice is a telecommuting agreement. This sets out the responsibilities and expectations for both the staff member and the employer, and should cover issues such as division of expenses, communication methods, security and conditions of employment.

Once you've reached an agreement, you'll need to conduct an inspection of the staff member's home office to ensure it complies with Occupational Health and Safety standards. As a guideline, the home office should meet the same standards as the main office.

If you have completed a successful inspection and drawn up a telecommuting agreement, your staff member is ready to telecommute and you're ready to gain some of the benefits of a new way of working.

For a full rundown on each of the components of developing a telecommuting program, have a look at these support pages:

Here's a checklist of telecommuting ideas you can include in an access plan.

Selecting your telecommuters

Telecommuting or working from home is one of the most popular options cited by employees as an alternative to driving to work. However, it's not for everyone.

The manager of the telecommuter must be satisfied that the person is going to be motivated when working at a distance and will still be able to meet deadlines and performance standards.

For their part, the telecommuter must work out how they're going to stay in regular contact with the office, manage their work and not succumb to feeling isolated.

The first step is to assess whether the job can be done through telecommuting. Some considerations include:

Think about the following tasks. Do they all have to be done in an office? Or could they be done more efficiently at home?

Once you have an idea of whether the work can be done through telecommuting, you then have to assess whether the person doing the job is going to be a suitable telecommuter. Successful telecommuters tend to share some of the following characteristics:

If this all sounds too daunting, it is important to remember that many of the characteristics for successful telecommuters are based on those people working from home most if not all of the time.

In many instances, a staff member may not know their strengths or weaknesses in regard to telecommuting until they've tried it. For this reason, it's a good approach to start by offering telecommuting on an occasional basis.

Home Office Inspection

As a general rule of thumb, the home office environment of a telecommuter should be as safe as that of their regular office.

Your human resources or personnel department should already have an established safety checklist that applies to the office environment. The same rules apply for the home office.

A home office inspection should cover issues such as:

If you or your human relations section is unsure, contact the Workcover office in your state for more information.