To make remote work options a reality at your organization, it’s helpful to have a well-thought-out strategy going in. You’ll need to work for “buy-in” from all participants, from the top down, and lay out the advantages of telecommuting, remote work, and distributed teams, or TRaD. In other words, building a business case for TRaD is essential to success.

Remote.co came up with the acronym TRaD to help with simplifying definitions for telecommuting, remote, and distributed teams. TRaD is a great umbrella term that describes work being done outside of a traditional office. In fact, if you’re working to build a business case for TRaD, the term can be helpful in encapsulating your company’s remote work goals.

Recently, the team at Remote.co joined with our sister site, FlexJobs, to host the TRaD Works Forum in Washington, D.C., bringing together an amazing community of companies and organizations at the forefront of remote work. One of the highlights of the forum was a panel featuring three remote work trailblazers whose organizations have made great strides in offering their employees flexible options, including remote work.

We’re offering some of the highlights of the forum, which was moderated by Jeanne Sahadi, a senior writer at CNNMoney.

Here are tips and insight from panel participants that may help you build a business case for TRaD at your company by standardizing remote work, implementing sound policies, and adhering to best practices.

Karen LaGraff

Xerox, Vice President of Employee Relations for the North American Region

At Xerox, a global company with more than 130,000 employees, the initial effort to increase TRaD work options felt like a cross between “herding cats and insane,” LaGraff said, given the vastness of the task of incorporating various departments and across functions, including finance, real estate, IT, and environmental health and safety. “Getting there was really challenging, but we got there,” LaGraff said.

Tips for building a business case for TRaD:

  • Get “buy-in.” “One hurdle was getting everyone on the same page of why it’s important, and having a really good business case helped,” LaGraff said.
  • Set up remote tools for managers and employees.  “Policies put in place included special tools for managers to help assess which jobs and people can work virtually, and tools for employees including online training,” LaGraff noted.
  • Take a bottom-line approach. When you can say, ‘I’m not just the warm and fuzzy HR person saying this is great for our employees—which it is—I’m also a business-minded person that’s looking at the financials,’ and (you) can say we can save real dollars,” LaGraff said, “you have a strong case to go forward.”
  • Offer stipends as needed.  Xerox “offered global stipends to help with costs like high-speed Internet, which involved salary assessments and adjustments.”
  • Consider providing “hoteling” space. To ease concerns of managers and staff, Xerox works to provide in-office work areas so that “out-of-office workers can come in and have a space to work” in case of emergency, in-person staff meetings, or other instances that require their physical presence.

Mika Cross

U.S. Department of Labor, Director of Strategic Communications – Digital and Public Engagement

Cross’ experience working for various departments of the nation’s largest employer—the U.S. government—as well as her military background in the Army and her experience as a single working mom has informed her work in building a business case for TRaD in the federal government.

Tips for building a business case for TRaD:

  • Be ready to tackle an “ingrained” work culture. Dealing with some of the nation’s oldest agencies was a challenge, including the USDA, where she worked for years, and where managers took on 150 years of “operating the same way.” Today, USDA leads the way as one of the most flex-friendly agencies in the federal government.
  • Build support from the top down. “We built a wonderful program there, and it was in large part because of the support at the very top levels of government, from the political appointees all the way to the career appointees.”
  • Highlight a global talent pool. “When you think about the implications of TRaD and what that means, being able to hire from where people are, or where they transition out of, [it’s] an amazing strategy for veterans” and other potential hires.
  • Set up metrics to measure productivity. “What gets measured gets done,” Cross said. In gauging productivity for TRaD workers, Cross said, “You account for their day using the same metrics you use to account for in-office workers: results, performance, quality, impact, accountability.”
  • Spotlight the geographic advantages for staff. At some federal government agencies, that’s meant “letting retirement-eligible people pay their own way to some place they want to live,” and offering locality subsidies that vary depending on geographic location.

Jodi Davidson

Sodexo, Director of Diversity and Inclusion

With a “highly decentralized” workforce of more than 400,000 employees “across countries and cultures,” including more than 120,000 in the U.S., Sodexo kept its sights on remaining “culturally agile” as the company incorporated TRaD policies into its workforce, Davidson said. She cited three main factors for setting up a successful TRaD workforce: tenure, credibility, and culture change.

Tips for building a business case for TRaD:

  • Take a holistic approach—and go slow, if needed. Beginning with a 2004 effort to increase “work-life effectiveness,” Sodexo took a “holistic approach where it’s really about being agile and letting people flex in the way that is meaningful for them, and empowering people to make the ‘ask,’” Davidson said.
  • Network to identify best practices and policies. Through conferences and networking, Davidson said she was able to identify potential best practices. Sodexo’s work-life steering committee and focus groups bolstered the effort.
  • Set up an in-house mechanism to smooth the transition. “We started with an employee-initiated effort that is tied to flexible work arrangements,” Davidson said. The effort “stalled out for a time” but eventually gained traction, “born out of and still managed by diversity and inclusion.”
  • Cite figures about job satisfaction and employee retention. “Intangible gains as much as the tangibles” matter, Davidson said. A Sodexo survey of 2,100 employee respondents found that 53 percent said they were more productive because of remote work and telecommuting; 73 percent reported greater job satisfaction; and 62 percent said they were more loyal to Sodexo.
  • Strive for consistent TRad policies. If possible, aim for a TRaD policy that’s flexible, fair, and consistent company-wide, rather than allowing departments to set their own policies that may differ from unit to unit. Davidson put it this way: “How do you adopt it more consistently across the board so that it’s systemic?”

Thanks to our TRaD Works Forum panelists for a great discussion about how they’ve helped make telecommuting, remote, and distributed teams work at their organizations. Their experience and insight may be useful to your efforts to build a business case for TRaD work at your company.