Do you still hit the road five days a week, retreat into a maze of cubicles and then watch the time tick by as you make your way home during the height of the evening rush hour? If so, you’re part of a shrinking majority. In recent years, there has been a steady rise in the number of people who commute only a few steps to their home offices instead of hitting the highways.

Although the term “telework” was coined by Jack Niles in 1972, the idea really began to take hold in 1996 when the National Telecommuting Initiative was implemented. Since 2005, tele-commuting has grown by nearly 80 percent, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

With the increasing popularity of working from home, many SMB owners and HR executives find that strong telework policies empower employees to be more productive.

If you already have an effective policy in place, below are three trends to consider incorporating today to help your business thrive with employees in multiple locations, including home.

Smaller or nonexistent offices. Without the need to house every employee during every business hour, businesses are moving away from traditional office spaces. SMB owners can save thousands by renting smaller spaces, utilizing co-op offices or running their entire operation from home. Office décor is evolving as well as more people adopt to the world of telework. If you have a small space, consider incorporating farm-style tables that can accommodate a number of people instead of traditional desks. These tables are inexpensive and can serve multiple purposes – from work space, to meeting space, to lunch area.

Weekly meet-ups. In my fast-paced, high-tech business, remote work is very much supported. Still, I recognize the value in connecting with colleagues face to face. Weekly team meetings, whether at your office or a local coffee shop, can help employees form better connections and inspire better productivity. Think outside of the box during these meetings and use the time together to foster creativity through brainstorms and fun activities. Incorporate short teambuilding exercises and take photos that each team member can take back to their respective locations.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Gartner calls BYOD the “most radical change in the economics and the culture of client computing in decades” and expects that, by 2017, half of all companies will have mandatory BYOD policies. The BYOD revolution will not only save your business money, it will save time on training and implementation. By encouraging employees to bring their own devices, you can take into account how employees want to work since they’ve most likely spent the time and effort to find technology that’s perfectly suited to their style. Your business provides access to the productivity software and employees can access the infrastructure as needed.

Incorporating these trends into your telework policy can allow you to do more, increase employee morale and attract new talent. For more information on how to make the most of a mobile workforce, click here.

About the Author(s)

Cindy Bates

Cindy Bates is the vice president of the U.S. Small- and Mid-Sized Business (SMB) Organization at Microsoft. Cindy and her team serve millions of SMB's in the U.S., helping them start, grow and thrive by utilizing today’s powerful and affordable technologies.

Vice President, Microsoft SMB