Telecommuting Considerations

Telecommuting is a flexible work arrangement that allows employees to work at home, on the road, or from another location for all or part of their workweek. The concept offers employers an opportunity to reduce overhead costs while increasing the effectiveness of their operation. The savings on office space, travel time, and commuting can be mutually beneficial to employer and employee, and the flexible work arrangement may be considered a valuable benefit to employees looking for more work-life balance. There are a number of business considerations when deciding to allow an employee to work from home. Questions to consider include the following:

Is there management support for telecommuting?
Can budget be made available to cover expenses?
Will the company's technology support the arrangement?
Is the position conducive to telecommuting (for example, a receptionist cannot do his or her job properly by telecommuting)?
Will there be a minimum performance level that must be maintained by telecommuters?
Will there be a minimum length of service for eligibility?
How will performance and work output be monitored?
How will working hours be monitored?
How will the manager communicate with telecommuters?
Does the employee have the technology systems and skills needed to be successful as a telecommuter?
How will telecommuting employees participate in meetings?

Most successful telecommuting programs include the following elements:

An application from employees who meet the policy criteria for telecommuting and wish to become a telecommuter.
Frequent contact between the manager and the employee. This should be a combination of informal contact as well as scheduled regular check-in meetings and may consist of progress reports that may be required weekly or even daily.
The employee's willingness and ability to have appropriate, regular contact with the main office on a formal and social basis.
Comparable participation in office events, performance evaluation, and promotion opportunities.
Clear articulation that telecommuting is not a substitute for child care and an expectation that employees will have appropriate child care arrangements when they are working from home.
A requirement that telecommuters spend at least some time on a regular basis working at the office.
A telecommuting agreement between the employer and the employee with clear expectations.
Annual (or more frequent) review and update of telecommuting agreements.

Additional issues to consider include the following:

Information asset security. Think about who has responsibility for maintaining hardware and software, and how it will be done.
Workers' compensation. Find out the scope of liability under state law.
Insurance. Check with your carrier about whether special protection is needed to insure telecommuters.
Tax and zoning issues. There may be local ordinances limiting the type of business that can be conducted from the home. It is the employee's responsibility to check with state and local agencies.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .