By: Jennifer Morrison

Remote career opportunities are replacing the traditional brick-and-mortar way of employing people.

According to a Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs report, the number of remote job positions has increased 115% in just the last 10 years. As telecommuting gains popularity, employees are looking to take advantage of this option. Many are going so far as to use it as a negotiation point either in accepting a new job or in lieu of a pay raise. While the benefits for employees seem obvious—no commute time, cost savings on commuting expenses and office attire, and a better work-life balance—employers may wonder, “What does it do for me?”

The benefits

There is an obvious cost savings to having employees conduct their responsibilities from the comfort of their homes (or coffee shops). Fewer employees in a physical office means there are lower overhead costs associated with in-house items, such as office space, supplies, and utilities. Healthcare costs are also diminished for remote workers. A Staples study of its employees found that those who telecommuted were less stressed and able to make healthier choices when compared with their experiences in a traditional office setting.

Often, flexible scheduling goes hand in hand with telecommuting positions. This option can decrease unplanned time off for employees who would otherwise need to use time to attend doctor’s appointments or to care for a sick child. An employer would never be able to recoup that productivity, but employees with flex schedules can fit in work around life’s other events and still consistently deliver the same amount of work, week after week.

Further, desirable working conditions go a long way toward employee retention. If you haven’t offered your employees at least partial telecommuting options, you as an employer need to ask yourself why.

How to make it happen

Creating virtual offices for your employees isn’t as simple as sending them home with a computer and internet connection. Not all positions completed in a virtual space are going to benefit you and the customer, or even your employee. Collaborative work is best done when team members are all in the same place at the same time. Companies like Google and Apple that thrive on collective efforts discourage working from home. If you have customers visiting your sticks-and-bricks office, you’ll still need someone physically in the office to greet them and manage them.

Identifying who can work from home may be the trickiest part of your planning. Data entry roles, independent creatives, and even some customer service positions can all work from home and achieve success. Once you’ve identified which positions you’ll send out of the office, you’ll need to provide the technical setups to make sure the work is being completed according to your firm’s security protocols and standard procedures. It’s also not just about what jobs can be done outside of the office; it’s about who can execute these jobs with the most productivity. Knowing which of your employees are driven, self-sufficient, organized, and tech savvy—and which ones aren’t—will help you decide whom to send home and whom to keep close.

Setting up everyone for success

Work-at-home employees should be managed just as much as you would oversee those employees in your physical office. Employees need to understand expectations and how they are to meet those goals. Specifically, you should draft a policy that addresses work-at-home requirements, such as hours (both hours dedicated to work and those dedicated to personal time; e.g., employees should not exceed 40 work hours in a week), technical requirements (e.g., internet connectivity speeds, use of a personal computer for work), and dedicated working spaces (e.g., Does the nature of your business require security or protection of sensitive information?). You should also encourage your employees to remain in tune with your office’s culture and events. Bringing remote employees into the office for regular check-ins and mentorship is an effective way to keep your workforce cohesive.

Telecommuting provides a lot of flexibility and benefits for both the employer and the employee. It can make your company more attractive to potential, desirable employees and retain those employees who possess the skills that make your company a success. While it’s not a decision any employer should make on a whim, implementing telecommuting in your business is one that can spell success and growth if carried out with thought.