Telecommuting continues to be recognized as a way to attract top talent while both keeping costs down and increasing productivity. A ConnectSolutions survey conducted this spring found 77 percent of employees who work offsite at least a few times a month see greater productivity, especially by accomplishing more in less time or being willing to work more hours, according to a news release. The survey also found those who work remotely are getting more sleep and physical activity and are eating better, all factors that may contribute to their productivity.


The chief benefit of allowing flexible work options lies in finding the right people for your team, writes Jacob Morgan for “Talent is no longer within a five or 10-mile radius of where your organization is based, some of the smartest people that your organization can hire may be hundreds of thousands of miles away,” he writes. “Telecommuting allows you to work with top talent, regardless of where they are.” Morgan suggests evaluating whether a worker and his or her job responsibilities are good candidates for off-site work.


Both managers and off-site employees should have what Tolga Tanriseven, writing for the Globe and Mail, calls “digital emotional intelligence.” “It’s easy for a person’s true intention to get lost behind a toneless instant message,” she writes. “All team members who are working remotely need to have a certain level of digital emotional intelligence in order to effectively communicate in an online space.”


Once your company has decided to allow an employee to work remotely, Morgan recommends starting with the right training. “It’s important to make sure that managers know how to communicate and collaborate with virtual employees and vice versa,” Morgan writes. “This means not only understanding the soft skills, but also understanding how to use the right technologies to facilitate the desired interaction.”


Another important component to getting the most from these flexible work arrangements: making sure your employees have the right technology, Randy Rayess writes for the Harvard Business Review. “It is important to give your virtual employees large monitors, great computers, and fast Internet,” he writes, “This will encourage them to work hard and stick with you for the long term. Bad tools hurt productivity.”


Along with providing the right hardware, you should also consider providing the right set of virtual tools to help your remote employees work successfully. The ConnectSolutions survey found that currently, 88 percent of remote workers are collaborating via email, and 47 percent are using instant messaging.


While email provides communication for several people at once, communication tools that are transparent and searchable provide better long-term solutions. They allow all workers to access the shared information. “If you use a knowledge management tool, the tag on the question will allow the next employee, who will probably have similar questions, to easily find and learn by searching through past questions,” Rayess writes.