Working from home, or telecommuting, has evolved from a rare and special privilege granted to only a select few, to a regular occurrence for normal employees. If your business is the type that would permit your employees to telecommute either part or all of the time, make sure your business policies are equally up-to-date and address the issues that could arise.
Working remotely has obvious attractions for both employees and employers, often for different reasons, but be ready to be flexible. Your office polices will definitely need to be updated to reflect the situation and you need to be prepared for both the successes and failures that come with telecommuters.
Develop an Appropriate Remote Work Policy
Some employers develop remote work policies out of necessity, for example when a key employee relocates or has a personal situation arise that requires them to spend less time in the office. Keep in mind, however, that developing a policy as a reaction to circumstances is not ideal – it is much better to plan ahead. And remember all of the aspects of moving an employee to an out-of-the-office worker: IT issues, tax issues, insurance, privacy concerns, and a clear, evenly applied remote policy.
There is no reason to fear telecommuting. In fact, the ability to work remotely is generally viewed as a benefit by employees. Offering telecommuting to employees often means you can retain key people in your organization and your business as a whole becomes more attractive to potential employees. It is also important to remember that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argues that, on occasion, working from home must be considered as a reasonable accommodation option, even if the employer has no existing telecommuting program. However, all this means is do not say no to a remote working arrangement before you analyze the options. Importantly, federal courts of appeal have concluded that regular, on-site attendance is often an essential function of many jobs and, in those circumstances, an employer is not required to offer the employee the option to work at home.
Questions You May Not Have Considered
Working remotely may permit the employee’s work location to be in a different state from the employer’s business, such as here in South Jersey, so close to the Pennsylvania border. You must determine which state laws will regulate the work and to which state the employee will owe taxes. Be careful! New Jersey is a state that insists remote activity requires an employer to pay state corporate taxes. The employer should also clear remote work activity with local zoning laws or property restrictions which may either inhibit or ban commercial activity in the employees’ homes.
I Do Not Want to Pay My Employee to Sit Home and Watch Netflix
Compensating non-exempt employees can be the most challenging aspect of tackling a remote work policy. Usually work is measured and compensated by time – the amount of hours the employee is in the office. Time in the office is easy to measure and monitor with supervisors, a time-clock or computer log in records. An employer who wants to rely on more than a telecommuting employee’s say so must get creative and develop technological methods to substitute for the traditional time clock, such as a computer log-in records. There will have to be a level of trust developed and certainly the work product output should have relation to the hours logged.
If you would like to explore a telecommuting policy to offer your employees, give us at Bergmann & Good a call to discuss the options.