Want to Make Teleworking Work?

These Are Questions Employers Must Answer and Decisions to Make

JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

Do your employees want to telework? Increasingly, employees worldwide are attracted to organizations that allow them to telework, at least part of the time. This is especially true of your millennial employees who seek flexible work schedules and outcome based assignments and goals.

Telework is a factor in the retention of your most desirable employees. It also influences potential employees’ choice of an employer.

With the scarcity of talent in key skill areas such as computer science and engineering becoming more severe, telework also allows an employer to recruit and hire remote employees who choose not to move to your location.

Make Teleworking Successful - for the Employer and the Employee

Making telework – work - for both the employer and the employee is challenging. So, many organizations fall into the habit of deciding on a case-by-case basis who may telework. Managers are insufficiently trained to deal with remote employees.

Employees who are not suited to telework may find themselves failing because they need more support and companionship than working remotely allows. Other employees believe decisions about who gets to telework are unfair.

It is far more effective to decide upon your telework policies and prepare your employees to manage teleworking. It does exist in your future, if you want to compete as an employer and it should exist in your options for employees today for employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity.

Why not prepare your organization now? The learning curve is steep and fraught with peril, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages when you support the ability of employees to telework.

Develop a Teleworking Policy

Before you develop any telework policy, your organization must determine the answers to a series of questions and make decisions that will form the basis for how your organization will support telework.

Additionally, your managers must be prepared to manage telework with guidelines and expectations. A written telework policy, an employee application, and a telework agreement are recommended.

Amy Casciotti, the Human Resources manager at TechSmith Corporation, an Okemos, MI-based mobile, cloud, and software solutions provider, suggests that the executive team needs to decide how they want the organization to handle these situations and challenges.

Telework Decisions and Questions

  • Employee must work at the company for at least 6 months to a year before telework is an option. (An employee who is hired as a remote employee, must spend a month at headquarters and plan to visit on a regular schedule following the month of onboarding.)
  • The ability to work remote will depend on the position. Not all positions are eligible for telework.
  • During a trial period, the employee has to show that he or she is capable of being productive working remotely.
  • The employee will work at a designated location during the hours agreed upon with his or her manager.
  • The employee must be accessible to staff during regular work hours by phone, IM, email, and skype.
  • At the end of the trial period, the manager, employee, and HR will evaluate the success of the teleworking.
  • Remote employees will not be guaranteed a physical location in the office as over time hotel stations and storage areas will accommodate employees who telework.
  • Remote agreement is for a specific physical location; if the employee moves, a new agreement must be negotiated.
  • Determine and set consistent expectations of what expenses and equipment the company will cover.
  • Ensure that company data will be secure in the telework location.
  • An application to telework must be filled out completely. The request to telework must focus on the value that teleworking will provide for the company as well as the employee.
  • Because of the remote work, no employee will have a guarantee of what team / project the employee will work on. Teleworkers will be able to effectively contribute on some whereas others will be problematic for the team.
  • The policy must specify how the employee or the company can end the telework relationship.
  • Office rules and the employee handbook policies and guidelines apply to remote employees.
  • The company code of conduct applies to remote employees.
  • Check with your insurance company but normally the company is liable for accidents that happen to the employee while performing company work and the employee is eligible for workers compensation. The company is not liable for injuries outside the agreed upon hours of work.

More Questions and Decisions

Additional questions and areas of concern as you plan your teleworking policy include these.

  • The teleworker’s hours cannot violate any of the rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • The duties, responsibilities, conditions of employment must remain the same as does salary and benefits.
  • The employee may not use teleworking as a substitute for elder care or child care.
  • The employee agrees not to participate in other employment or self-employment during the hours he or she agreed to telework for your company.
  • The employee remains liable for injuries to a third party or family member on the employee’s premises. Your company is not liable for damage to the employee’s property. Advise employees to check with their insurance advisor on the availability of office liability coverage for business work in the home.
  • If a meeting or other event that the employee should attend in the company occurs on a normally scheduled telework day, the employee will change his or her telework schedule to accommodate the event. The telework schedule is not guaranteed and attendance at work, based on business needs, may be required.
  • All products and other output from the employee remain the proprietary property of your company.
  • When the employee uses his or her own equipment and furniture, the employee is responsible for maintenance and repair. If the company supplied the equipment, the company is responsible for maintenance and repair.
  • The employee must sign a teleworking agreement that lays out the dates of the trial period, the location and hours of work, company equipment provided, and the expectations for amount of work and performance.
  • Depending on your business needs, you may want to include a clause giving the company the right to inspect the workplace for safety and freedom from hazards or to maintain and repair company equipment with a 48 hour notice.
  • The employee is responsible, in conjunction with his or her accountant or tax preparer to determine any income tax implications of maintaining a home office for telework. The company will not provide tax guidance for teleworking employees nor will the company take on any additional tax liabilities.

If you and your executive team have responded to these concerns, questions, and needed decisions, the components of a teleworking policy will come together quickly.

Training for the managers and employees is imperative so that the policy and the thought processes that led to its development are universally understood. You want to see the eventual policy implemented fairly, consistently, and with care for both the company and your employees.

if you are aware of other areas of concern, decisions, or policy, please share your thoughts.

Disclaimer – Please Note:

Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.