Telecommuting provides benefits for both employers and employees. Research shows that telework improves the quality of work/life and job performance (for example, reduces office overcrowding and provides a distraction-free environment for reading, thinking and writing). Studies also have found an improvement in retention, leave usage and productivity.
Employing remote workers also creates flexibility in hiring. If the company is restricted by location, it can hire the best and the brightest individuals from just about anywhere. Negative aspects of telecommuting can include a lack of supervision, security of company information or “face time” with other personnel, for example.
To have an effective telecommuting program, certain guidelines are helpful:
• Have the employee designate a particular area in the home as the “home office;”
• Have the employee record hours worked;
• Have the employee be mindful of ergonomic issues in the home work area;
• Consider implementing formal agreements stating expectations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a policy on home offices on February 25, 2000. The policy indicates that employers are not responsible for inspecting an employee’s home to be sure it is safe, that employers aren’t liable for employees’ home offices, and that OSHA will not inspect home offices. However, employers are still responsible for the safety of employees who work at home, and it is possible that an employee will sustain a recordable injury in the home office that arises out of his or her employment. For workers’ compensation purposes, a home office is considered a satellite worksite, and courts look at certain factors to determine whether an injury occurred while the employee was actually engaged in work.
Supervisors need to be in frequent communication with teleworkers. Both sides need to keep the other informed of the status of work, progress, difficulties and so on. Don’t forget that teleworkers are still part of the team.
Stacey Bruce, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the director of HR Services at the Manufacturer & Business Association. Contact her at 814/833-3200, 800/815-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.