For some employees, the ability to telecommute is the most attractive perk that could ever be offered in any benefits package. The luxury of working from the comfort and familiarity of home is not only a cozy concept to those tired of cubicle culture and the rat race, but when you factor in gas, vehicle wear and tear, and uncompensated commute time, it adds up to extra pay in the long run. For business owners there are benefits, as well. Telecommuting employees are employees who aren’t late, who generally don’t expect insurance or retirement benefits and who are happier and easier to schedule.

The problem with telecommuting, however, has always been communication. But amazing technological improvements have made advanced, virtual call-forwarding systems an affordable, logistically doable reality — even for modest enterprises.

 

Hardware: Business Supplied or BYOD?

 

Telecommuting requires hardware such as computer and phones. Before you launch, you’ll have to make a practical and philosophical decision. Will your satellite employees be provided with universal equipment that your business provides, controls and trains them on? Or will your at-home workers be part of the bring-your-own-device revolution that allows employees to use their familiar personal devices for which no training is needed, that cost you nothing, but are much more prone to security issues? BYOD is a controversial and far-reaching discussion about a philosophy that has real consequences, real benefits and legitimate arguments on both sides.

 

Network: VoIP Beats PBX

 

When setting up the foundation of your telecommuting virtual office, you basically have two options for your communications platform: voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) or private branch exchange (PBX). Choose VoIP. PBX requires the purchase — or leasing, in the case of hosted PBX — of phone lines from a local provider, as well as a laundry list of expensive, complicated hardware that needs to be maintained and updated.

 

VoIP, on the other hand, uses the Internet and your data network to send and receive not just calls, but video and messaging, as well. VoIP, unlike PBX, can be scaled up and down as your telecommuting needs grow or recede. Updates are not made through physical infrastructure, but through software, which can be beamed right to the home base of each telecommuter. With VoIP, your entire communications network is just another branch of your IT division.

 

Collaborative software

 

Your telecommuters will need to be able to collaborate with you, collaborate with the office and collaborate with each other. Software such as Podio unites far-flung employees into the same project, gives them the ability to share and network, and allows real-time collaboration among all interested parties. Not only do meetings become easier than they ever could be with only a VoIP phone network, but collaboration software can bring clients into the fold and even handle administrative tasks such as payroll and record keeping.

 

Telecommuting is a win-win for both employees and business owners alike. It does, however, require planning and an investment in both the right hardware and the right software. An amazing, customized telephone and video network can be built on VoIP technology to your exact standards and needs. Your virtual office will not be complete, however, without software that links each employee and provides the ability to work together in real time. But once it’s up and running, you’ll be part of a bold new trend of emerging and established companies that not just allow, but encourage their employees to work from home.