Teleworking, also known as telecommuting, allows employees to work from home, on the road, or in a satellite location for some or all of their regular workweek. Teleworking is usually a voluntary work alternative that may be appropriate for some employees and some jobs. In some organizations, employers are doing away with the traditional work environment in favor of teleworking environments. However, teleworking is not an entitlement and it in no way changes the terms and conditions of employment with an employer.
According to a Global Workplace Analytics report, fifty percent of the U.S. workforce now has a job that is compatible with at least partial telework, and about 20% to 25% of the U.S. workforce teleworks with some frequency. A whopping 80% to 90% of employees say they would like to telework at least part-time, and a total of 3.7 million of them do (Workspan, 09/2017). Bottom line is that employers should prepare to offer working arrangements that are considerably different compared to the traditional workplaces of the past.
Teleworking environments are usually made on a case-by-case basis, focusing first on the business needs of the organization. All teleworking arrangements must have the advanced approval from a manager prior to implementation. The employee and the manager may agree on the number of days of teleworking allowed each week, the work schedule the employee customarily maintains, and the manner and frequency of communication. The employee generally agrees to be accessible by phone and email within a reasonable time period during the agreed to work schedule. Management also reserves the right to terminate the teleworking arrangement with any employee at any time. Employers should have a set of guidelines for employees who are permitted to telework to follow while they are working in the teleworking environment (see the bulleted list below).
For employees who are teleworking from home, setting up a teleworking office requires advance planning to ensure that they have an adequate workspace and the necessary equipment and supplies. Important considerations to keep in mind when planning a teleworking workspace are as follows:
- The work area must be quiet and free of distractions.
- Lighting must be adequate and without glare.
- Distracting noises should be kept to a minimum.
- The teleworker’s desk must be adequate, designed to safely accommodate the equipment the employee must use, e.g. computer, printer, etc. The teleworker must have a comfortable office chair with adequate back support. The organization will not provide furniture for the employee’s remote workspace.
- Equipment, including a computer and printer, as well as reliable high-speed Internet connection (preferably Ethernet), must be available for the teleworker’s exclusive use while teleworking and must be compatible with the equipment the teleworker uses in his or her office at work.
- If the computer and printer are not provided by the employer, the employee is responsible for the equipment and for purchasing, installing, and keeping up-to-date a reputable anti-virus software. The organization is not responsible for insuring and/or replacing employee-owned equipment used for business related activities.
- If the computer and printer are provided by the organization, the employee will sign an inventory of all organization-owned property and equipment and agrees to take appropriate action to protect the items from damage and theft. Upon termination of employment or when requested, the employee will immediately return all organization-owned property and equipment.
- Employees are responsible for purchasing their own office supplies, e.g. printer cartridges, paper, pens, etc. and/or for taking them from the inventory supply within the organization. However, with a manager’s approval, payment for such supplies may be reimbursed by the organization through the expense reimbursement process.
- Additional work-related expenses, e.g. Internet, phone, shipping costs, etc. may be approved for reimbursement with the approval of the manager.
Consistent with an organization’s expectations of information security for employees working in an office, teleworking employees will be expected to ensure the protection of proprietary information accessible from their remote location. Steps include the use of a locked file cabinet and desk, regular password maintenance, and other steps appropriate for the job and the environment.
So, while teleworking environments are becoming a way of the future for employers, they must also make sure that they are taking the appropriate precautions and providing guidance to their employees on how to make the environment a “win-win” situation for all.
For additional information on teleworking environments, please contact us at www.newfocushr.com.
Written by: Kristen Deutsch, M.B.A., CCP