Preparing for Telework in an Evolving Technology Workplace

I often work from home, which means I earn two extra productivity hours by not commuting to and from an office—and gain some mental peace, too. When my meeting calendar is free, I work through the morning, taking a break to clean up the breakfast dishes that confront me when I return home many weekday evenings. I grab lunch while completing an errand, and then power through the afternoon, finding and keeping my flow without the ongoing interruptions I would otherwise experience in an office. When I feel my energy and attention dip around 3 pm, I walk around the block and pick the basil out of my garden, rejuvenating my mind and body. I finish my workday strongly and begin dinner at a time I would otherwise be sitting in rush hour traffic.

A laptop sits on top of a tree stump.

Making the case for telework

The 2019 workplace is mobile, digital, and boundaryless. Technology enables employees to work anytime and anywhere. Employees increasingly demand autonomy in their work, and employers see evidence that flexible working arrangements drive employee engagement.

Thus, telework is one approach to attracting and keeping the best talent in today’s workplace. Some nonprofits operate with virtual offices, meaning they hire remote workers, such as International Food Policy Research Institute and The American National Red Cross. Others have physical offices while providing employees flexible options like telecommuting several days a week.

Promoting telework not only makes it easier for nonprofit employers to hire and keep good talent, therefore reducing an organization’s attrition costs, but it boosts employee productivity and well-being, too. Much like my story above, individuals who have the option to work from home save time and invest in their mental health by eliminating their commute, balancing work with home priorities, and boosting efficiency in a distraction-free environment.

According to, as of August 2019, 50 percent of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 40 percent of the workforce works remotely at some frequency. Eighty to 90 percent of the workforce says they would like to telework at least two or three days a week. If those with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so half of the week, the national annual savings would exceed $700 billion.

Paving the way for telework practices

Are you ready to consider telework solutions for your nonprofit? Here are some tips to get started.

Prepare for change. First, be certain your agency’s culture is ready for this change. Assess what elements must be in place for remote work to have a positive impact. For example, trust must be a pillar of your organization’s culture; if employers do not trust employees to be productive when not in the office and employees do not trust employers to grant them autonomy, the environment is not yet conducive to remote work. Additionally, you may need to invest in new technology to adequately support employees who are telecommuting. Ensure they have access to the same tools, information, and capabilities available in a physical office.

Create a communication plan. Next, establish internal communication channels to support remote workers. One potential downside is that telecommuting can be isolating. Check in regularly using various mediums beyond email and phone, such as web conferencing, video, and chat program. Ensure all information you are sharing with in-office teammates is also disseminated to remote workers. Schedule weekly team meetings to encourage collaboration despite a worker’s physical location.

Manage expectations. All employees, both in-office and remote, must adhere to company practices, including work hours. Establish a shared schedule for your team and require telecommuters to communicate when during working hours they will not be available. New policies must be created for remote workers, including potential reimbursement for use of personal property for work. Finally, determine cybersecurity measures to support your agency’s external data privacy laws and internal data protection practices.

If you are ready to prime your agency for the many benefits telework affords, contact organizational development firm Brighter Strategies. Our team of consultants can work with you to assess and build a culture that supports flexible work and greater employee engagement. Also, learn more about our Culture Journey Experience on November 12 in Washington, DC.