After a particularly brutal winter where record snowfall and treacherous ice storms made travel nearly impossible in many states, SMB owners and HR departments are looking for new ways to incorporate telework and ensure their business aren’t ensnarled along with the traffic.

The Boston Globe recently reported that “a one-day storm in Massachusetts cost the state economy about $265 million.” Offering remote work options not only makes sense for the potential cost savings, it also can be a major perk for recruiting purposes as more and more people prioritize flexibility when looking for a new job.

As someone who leads a large team and is often on the go, I embrace mobility solutions because they allow me to be more productive. Many employees find that a change of scenery – whether that means taking in the sunshine on their porch with their laptop in tow or setting up camp in a local coffee shop – improves their focus and creativity.  It’s nice to offer telework options but the number of full-time work-from-home employees is projected to rise as well. In fact, the number of full-time telecommuters should reach about 5 million in 2016, up 69 percent from 2011, according to the Telework Research Network.

Some executives remain skeptical of implementing remote work policies, commonly citing loss of oversight and a perceived loss of control as barriers. In my conversations with SMBs, I often find the opposite to be true. When employees are happier they tend to perform better and be more loyal to the company. In fact, if you’re not currently utilizing a flexible, remote working policy, you may risk losing some of your best employees to a business that has telework policies in place.

Each business’ remote working policies and arrangements will vary, depending on the nature of an organization’s services and products. For example, a flower shop will always need employees present during business hours, as the functions of food service demand the physical presence of employees. But, with the right technologies in place, flower shop employees also could easily conduct behind-the-scenes tasks, such as accounting and marketing, from remote locations. 

As you begin or refine the process of developing your business’s remote-working strategy, consider the following: 

  • Does your company have a formal or consistent policy around telework? If not, take steps to develop one. Establishing telework policies will help employees better understand their privileges and limitations and will also set a foundation for technology implementation.
  • What are your business’ internal and remote technology capabilities? For instance, how easily can your employees communicate and collaborate with one another inside the office, and do they experience the same capabilities outside the office environment? Incorporating internal collaboration tools and leveraging cloud-based software that’s accessible anywhere will enable them to conduct business with greater efficiency and speed both in and out of the office. 
  • How secure are your internal and remote systems? In an effort to increase accessibility and enable instant collaboration, many business decision-makers err by relying on public networking or social media platforms, even though these solutions are not appropriate venues for the exchange of sensitive ideas and information. Therefore, invest in communications technologies with heightened security protocols, always prioritizing the integrity of your business’ information rather than getting sidelined by free solutions that can’t guarantee the protection your business needs to succeed. 

For today’s SMB, the good news is that technologies that support telework are rapidly advancing and also are becoming increasingly affordable for smaller organizations. There’s never been a better or more pivotal time to capitalize on a mobile workforce to attract top talent both near and far. Find out what three items are needed for your teams’ remote work toolkit 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