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How to Make Telework Work for your Small Business

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How to Make Telework Work for your Small Business

By nicoj
Published: June 2, 2011 Updated: July 24, 2013

It’s no longer uncommon to witness neighbors, colleagues and partners taking a “work from home” day.  In fact, telework practices are considered a highly desirable perk, if not a downright necessity, for today’s increasingly agile and mobile workforce. 

As a small business owner the benefits are also significant . Cost-savings can be realized in abundance – from reductions in office space, to decreased absenteeism (employees no longer need to take a full day’s leave if they need to stay at home with a sick child). In some states employers can also benefit from tax credits to start or expand telework programs.

An established and functioning telework program is also an absolute lifesaver in the event of a disaster or severe weather event that limits employee mobility. Missed sales can be a significant cause of economic loss to a small business simply because employees can’t get to work to service customers.

If you are ready to consider introducing teleworking into your business practices, here are some considerations, how-to’s, and tax incentives to bear in mind:

Who Should Telework?

It’s unlikely that everyone on your team will be able to telework, so start by identifying types of positions or job types that can be performed at home practically. For example, if an employee needs to perform physical labor or operates specific equipment in the workplace not available to them at home, then that employee is clearly not a good candidate for teleworking. 

Understand your employee's needs and assess those needs in light of your knowledge of their work habits. Because (let’s face it) some employees just aren’t cut out for telework, you may wish to restrict teleworking as an option for managers and employees who can work well without constant oversight.

What about performance? Do you want to consider introducing telework as a reward for meeting certain performance goals?

Start with a Trial Period

Before you fully implement the policy, initiate a trial period and track results. Get feedback from managers and other employees as to the benefits and any challenges they are seeing. You can then fine tune and possibly expand the program to best suit everyone's needs.

How’s It Going?

Don’t be afraid to check up on employees. After all, you are putting a significant amount of trust and good faith in their ability to work from home. This doesn’t mean you need to be big brother, but you do need to know that work is still getting done to standard and on time. Set goals and follow through to ensure deliverables are still being met by those who telework.

Set Up Remote Office Tools

You don’t need to set up a company virtual private network (VPN) to help employees stay productive and connected at home. Free audio and video conferencing tools such as Skype or Google Voice can help employees stay connected for free, and online collaboration options such as Google Docs, Box.net and other file-sharing options can help ensure your employees deliver work on time and seamlessly. Many unified communication suites offer online and cloud computing options that also allow you to add Web- and mobile-based email, calendar, and collaboration functionality to your existing email service for a few extra dollars per user/per month.

Telework Tax Incentives for Employers

While your federal tax obligations do not change because your employees telecommute, certain states, including Georgia, Virginia and Oregon offer tax incentives of several thousand dollars per employee, while others offer free assistance to employers to help you start up and manage telework programs. Refer to your state government website for more information.

Tax Savings for Employees

Setting up a home office can provide some tax savings for employees in the form of home office deductions, however your employees need to be aware that the IRS is very strict when it comes to claiming this deduction. Unless you work from home 100 percent of the time, you need to provide evidence that this area of your home is used regularly and exclusively for business. Very specifically, the IRS states in its Business Use of Your Home (PDF) guide that “…if you are an employee and you use a part of your home for business, you may qualify for a deduction for its business use.” However, in addition to standard eligibility requirements, you must:

  • Use your home office for the convenience of your employer, and
  • You must not rent any part of your home to your employer and use the rented portion to perform services as an employee for that employer.

“If the use of the home office is merely appropriate and helpful…” i.e. it’s your employee’s preference to work from home, not yours, they cannot deduct expenses for the business use.

 Additional Resources

About the Author:

Nico Janssen
My name is Nico and I'm serving as a moderator for the Community.

Comments:

Good tutorial.
Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it's been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing
Working from home is the greatest thing in someone's career. You have the time to take care of your children, have a drink whenever you want and you won't have to spend hours in traffic going to and from work.
These are all fine suggestions, but the biggest obstacle to overcome when teleworking from home is the fact that it's "home" in our minds. We may have decided to ignore this little fact but it's easy tell that we have psychological associations with places. It's difficult for many (most?) people to work from home with the same intensity that they do at the office because they associate "home" with relaxation. There's other issues to. Like taking extra time at your local Carrollton TX LA Fitness because...well...you can. Little stuff like that adds up over time and results in lost productivity.
Hi NicoJ, We've tried teleworking at my place of business, with mixed results. I particularly like what you said about initiating a trial period and tracking results, as I think this one aspect which really could have benefited us. Thanks for the post. Jason This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
I think if employers can offer this to their staff and monitor it in terms of productivity the outcome for both employee and employer is significant. If employees can have the flexibility, cut commuting times, potentially cut child-care costs by not having to drop children off so early or pick up late, plus a happier work/family life balance the rewards will be huge for all involved! This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.
Free video and audio conferencing tools for example Skype or Google Voice might help employees keep in touch free of charge, an internet-based collaboration options..best dehumidifier Thanks,
Telework is pretty nice. When I was hurt on the job and couldn't drive to work anymore, they setup a system that I could access via my archos 80 G9 android tablet so that I could work from home. True that most work places don't have such systems in place, I am glad mine did. Only downside is you need to focus on actually getting work done when you are at home and not used to it.
I'm self employed and work from home around my family. It was something I had been wanting to do for many years but couldn't find the opportunity in an employment situation and wanted to have greater freedom and flexibility. I think if employers can offer this to their staff and monitor it in terms of productivity the outcome for both employee and employer is significant. If employees can have the flexibility, cut commuting times, potentially cut child-care costs by not having to drop children off so early or pick up late, plus a happier work/family life balance the rewards will be huge for all involved!! I agree many more companies should have this option available!! A great team environment is possible through creation of things like skype groups or conference calls that would enable people to stay connected throughout their work days. This post was edited to remove a link. Please review our Community Best Practices for more information about how best to participate in our online discussions. Thank you.

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