I am currently the lone, full-time telecommuting employee at The Starr Conspiracy. I wasn't the first and I won't be the last, though. I've been working for other companies remotely for four and a half years in a B2B environment and there are some pretty straight-forward ways to make telecommuting work for both the employer and the employee.
1. Not every company or employee is ready for telecommuting
Telecommuting isn't a universal for organizations. While some organizations can easily deal with employees in and out of the office, others will find the changes challenging. Many organizations have a collaborative atmosphere that doesn't translate well to virtual meetings. Others have business needs that require a more in-person presence. Similarly, employees who perform well in an office environment can do poorly outside of the confines of the office and vice verse.
2. Collaborate in the cloud
Part of the challenge that keeps companies from being ready for telecommuting is the issue of collaboration. For an organization like The Starr Conspiracy, we use Google app tools like Hangouts and Drive to collaborate on projects. On a week-to-week basis, I'm meeting with my co-workers in hangouts on a one-on-one or one-with-many. For larger organizations, there are enterprise-level collaboration tools that can either be standalone or work with your current HCM system.
3. Face and screen time is even more important
The Starr Conspiracy has a daily huddle and anyone from outside the office can login to the lobby and be present for it. Similarly, I go down to the headquarter once a quarter to work in the office and take meetings in person. When you work out of the office, it is easy to be out of sight and out of mind. With the face time once a quarter and hitting about 90% of our daily huddles means that nobody forgets what I look like (or that I work there).
4. Intention is important
Companies have to be intentional about telecommuting practices. People just don't work successfully remotely without the support of the organization. If an organization — any organization — wants to be successful, they can be with the right employees in telecommuting roles. As someone who hopes to continue working remotely, employers are also figuring out what works best for them in the short and long term and if you want to be one of those telecommuting employees, you have to be prepared to be flexible yourself.