Do Right By Your Telecommuters Pay for their Equipment
It makes business sense, and the goodwill is priceless
Ya gotta love telecommuting. Your employees think it's great because they
can work in their bunny slippers. Best of all, they've got home PCs and such,
so you don't have to buy them equipment. Right? Wrong. Telecommuting raises a
host of logistical, financial, and trust issues. Each company tackles them in
its own way. The experts are unanimous on this one, though: The boss should
foot the bill for PCs, printers, modems, fax machines, and any other
electronics your staff needs to work.
If you've been coasting on your secretary's equipment, that may be tough to
swallow. The bottom line is this: Telecommuters save you money. An employee
working at home one or two days a week can save a company between $6,000 and
$12,000 per year. How? They're more productive, less likely to quit, and need
less office space, according to figures compiled by telecommuting expert Jack
Nilles from such clients as IBM, AT&T, and the City of Los Angeles. You'll
recoup the expenditure in short order, by that calculation. "It's hard to
find investments that pay back in less than a year," says Nilles. And the
equipment probably will cost less than you fear with discounts for volume
Still need convincing? Here are three more reasons why parsimony doesn't pay
in this area.
You can turn your investment into an incentive. HotOffice Technologies Inc.,
a Web-based intranet service for small businesses based in Boca Raton, Fla.,
doesn't hesitate to pay for its telecommuters' computers. "If you look at the
expense, vs. what you're getting in added productivity, it's a simple
decision," says Michael Franz, chairman and CEO. The company goes a step
further with part of its software-development staff: If employees
consistently put in extra evening and weekend hours over a year, they keep
their high-end notebooks. "We need people to work 55, 60, 65 hours a week.
But it's not fair to say, 'We expect you to be in the office that time,'"
says Franz. "This way, they get to break, go home, see their family, have
dinner, put the kids to bed -- and then pound away into the night." Franz
hopes that the incentive will make after-hours work "part of the norm" for the company.
- Control. You can't restrict what telecommuters do with their equipment.
"But if you own it, you have a legal right to tell them how to use it," says
Nilles. Company business only, for example. That discourages moonlighting on
your time and cuts the chances that an employee's kid will download a game or
E-mail with viruses and infect your company's system.
- Support. Keeping everyone operating is much easier with only one make of
computer. "You don't have to bring your IT organization up to speed on every
flavor, variant, and version of hardware and software that ever existed -- all
you need to know is the standard stock, and away you go," says Jim Miller, general manager of extended workplace solutions for U S West.
- Morale. The investment makes telecommuters feel valued -- no small matter when you don't see the boss every day. And keeping them happy is especially important with jobs so hard to fill these days, notes Gil Gordon, a top telecommuting consultant. If staffers work at home irregularly, buy some loaner laptops for their use. If you still insist on having workers pitch in with the cost, help them pay for it with an interest-free loan or payroll-deduction program.
Convinced yet? Assuming you are, here are some important issues to consider
when buying equipment for telecommuters: