As the first blizzard of 2015 blanketed the northeast in wind and snow this week, many employees were still plugged in and “made it to work” like it was any other day.

Through advancing technologies and the use of smart phones and tablets, the ability to work from home is becoming easier and easier. “It’s really just business continuity,” says Lisa Orndorff, an HR business partner with the Society for Human Resource Management.  “It’s a way to keep the business running when the building can’t. It’s a huge benefit for companies.”

The idea of getting in the car, going to work from 8 to 5, and coming home to make dinner and take care of the family is changing. “We don’t have that distinction,” says Carol Sladek, a partner and work-life consulting lead at Aon Hewitt. “There is a blurred line between work and life outside work. Part of that blurring is the work life balance we lead.”

Currently, close to half of the employers surveyed by Aon Hewitt offer a remote work option of some kind – from ad hoc teleworking to full-time remote operations.

Also see: How to create an efficient environment when working from home

And Orndoff notes that employee productivity, engagement and satisfaction are generally markedly higher for those that are allowed to telecommute. “There’s a no-lose situation with that,” she adds.

In addition, offering telecommuting options can bring tremendous financial incentives to a business, particularly to some larger companies with some hefty cost savings on real estate and overhead costs, Sladek notes.

It’s a big trend for employers to create common spaces for employees that only spend a little time in an office setting. “There are offices where I can sign up to use or borrow when I come in, I just no longer have bookshelves with my kid’s pictures,” she adds.

But, she cautions, there are some hurdles employers should be aware of when implementing a telework benefit.

For example, many companies, particularly in the U.S., are used to constantly measuring and managing people. “The way we measure productivity is measuring hours in the office,” she says. “Most cultures today are moving toward a more results-driven [model], so this tends to be a cultural hurdle.”

Another notion to bear in mind is that telecommuting won’t be a one-size-fits-all situation for every employee, and that not all jobs are appropriate to remote work. There should be an assessment of the employee by management, Sladek advises.

The success really relies on the individual, Orndoff adds. “There may be too many distractions at home. You don’t want to use telecommuting as a way to take care of the kids or elderly parents at home. You want to be able to focus on your work.”

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However, a lot of employees do thrive working at home, she adds. “They don’t have people dropping by their desk for a chat, or getting interrupted by meetings or phone calls from those typical office distractions.”

She also cautions that the employee will need to set some boundaries on true working hours, which can be difficult in the modern 24/7 environment.  “It’s setting the expectation ‘you can reach me at home between 9 and 6, and that’s it.’ Have those clear expectations ahead of time so there is no surprise on either side.”

Additionally, both Sladek and Orndoff caution employers to be aware of the non-salaried employees working remotely.

“For the hourly folks, it does get tricky,” Sladek says. “They do work according to a clock, and the level of trust needs to be great.” But, she adds, hourly employees tend to fit together with needing to be in an office, so it can be a bit rare.

But, Sladek adds, with this week’s blizzard fresh in mind, the biggest advantage to offering telecommuting is the company keeps working. “You can warn your employees to make sure to take the laptops home, and you don’t have a dip in productivity.”

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