Working Remotely

“I have employees who want to work from home. However, we’ve never done this before and I’m not sure how it works.”

Your HR Survival Tip

There has never been a higher demand for the ability to work from home as there is right now. But the demand was high even six months ago because technology continues to improve and many workers prefer to work from their own home. First, however, your business needs to be structured and prepared.

If you look beyond today’s health concerns, the ability to work remotely has and will continue to be considered a benefit only available or offered to certain employees. Many industries aren’t able to function without employees on-site, such as manufacturing, transportation, construction, and those using laboratories.

An employee might think it’s easy for them to work from home, particularly if they are an office worker. However, as a business owner, you need to think of the whole picture:

  • Timekeeping — Are employees able to record time worked online from any computer? How can you ensure they are still taking meal and rest breaks? Are you set up to use electronic signatures?
  • Productivity — What electronic methods do you have set up to ensure the employee is actually getting work completed efficiently? Do you have software to track the progress of projects or other work?
  • Communication — If employees aren’t near each other, what effective methods do you have so they can ask questions, delegate, supervise, or to just stay in touch? How much time is lost (or gained) each day with electronic communications versus making a comment to the person next to you?
  • Security — Do you have secure remote access to your company files? Do you have a procedure for saving files remotely to ensure you still have all company files on your servers versus on a home computer? Do you have a procedure for backing up all those files, regardless of where the files reside?
  • Equipment — Do you provide or ensure each remote employee has a computer, phone, printer, high-speed internet service, and software required to do the work?
  • Workspace — Have you confirmed each remote employee has an actual home office? Is it free from distractions while they are working? Is it safe to avoid workers’ comp claims…a good desk chair, a desk at the correct height for their computer, no dangling cords, etc.?
  • Employee Classifications — If your outside sales reps are now working from home 51% of the time instead of out knocking on doors, they are no longer qualified for the outside sales exemption and must be paid hourly for time worked.
  • Compliance — What are you doing to ensure employees have access to things like the employment law wall poster information and your Employee Handbook (if it’s shared)?
  • Moving Paper — We aren’t yet a paperless society so how will paper documents be distributed to each remote worker?

Allowing remote work isn’t as easy as it might appear on the surface. Whether you have remote workers now or are considering offering this benefit, think through and document your procedures and guidelines. This will help you better explain why one employee is allowed to work remotely and another is not. Make sure you are very clear about the length of time they will be working remotely. Create and have them sign a policy that includes all your rules and that you can require them to work from the office again at any time. Done properly, remote work can be a benefit to both you and your employee.

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