Steve McPherson head of BT’s Workstyle consultancy group, which promotes and implements flexible working arrangement for businesses, says teleworking presents managers with new challenges in keeping their team motivated. “In the office you can just bring everybody together for meetings. You obviously have email, but you have to use it carefully and be aware that different people need handling differently.” Smaller companies are by their nature more flexible than their larger counterparts and many have ad hoc arrangements in already in place. However, Alan Denbigh, chief executive of the Telework Association says it pays to develop a policy: “There are a lot of informal arrangements but the problem is that employees can build their lives around it and become dependent on it, but the next manager may not like teleworking. You need to formalise a policy.” Once it is recognised as an option throughout the company, there will inevitably be an increased demand for it from others. In the interests of even handedness and to prevent time consuming arguments it is worthwhile putting in the effort to draw up guidelines. Although staff may be working from home, they are still working for you so their obligations to the company remain. A policy will clarify issues such as the hours you will expect them to work, when they should be in contact with the office, what equipment and training will be provided, and help stop abuse, such as underperformance or a lowering of standards in the less formal home environment. Some home workers struggle to balance the the distinction between home and office, resulting in longer hours. According to Angela Baron, the CIPD’s adviser for organisation and resourcing, this might sound good, until you’re dealing with a stressed and burnt out employee. Policy Your policy will also have to cover evaluation and assessment of individuals. It makes sense to start with a pilot in order to ascertain whether teleworking is something that you will want to embrace more widely. However, remember that tasks may no longer be best measured by the time they take, and you will have to come up with other meaningful measures. Fran Wilson, human resources advisor at the CIPD says companies need to move from time-based methods of evaluation to performance outcome objectives. “There can be too much of a focus on putting the hours in rather than on the outcome or the quality of the outcome. You need to agree objectives between employer and employee and it needs a bit of imagination.”

Your policy will also cover what people should be allowed to work from home and in what circumstances. When flexible arrangements are first introduced it is easy for them to be perceived as a perk for the chosen few. This is divisive, and is something to consider. Clare Amos says it is worth piloting a scheme before more widespread introduction. “The policy should not open the floodgates and has to include the ability to say ‘no’ and bring people back into the office environment if it’s not working.”