Telecommuting: Perks and Pitfalls

September 14, 2018 7:31 pm

According to a recent survey by FlexJobs, 65% of employees believe they would be more productive working from home than in a traditional office environment, with most respondents citing fewer distractions and interruptions as the reason for better performance.

The survey also found that many people rank work-life balance higher than pay rate when considering a job prospect, and would be more loyal to their employer if it offered flexible work options. So what’s not to love? More productive employees who will accept lower pay and be loyal to the company? Let’s all telecommute!

Of course, it’s not that easy. While telecommuting and flexible work arrangements can be an excellent benefit to attract and retain a quality staff, there are a variety of potential pitfalls to keep in mind:

  •  All but the most structured individuals will struggle with work and personal boundaries from time to time. Despite the best of intentions to stay productive throughout the day, young children in the house, that overflowing laundry basket, or the temptation to make “just a quick Target run” can easily creep into scheduled work hours.
  • Telecommuting employees may feel out of touch with the rest of the office team, and miss out on valuable collaboration that takes place during on-site meetings and informal chats.
  • Working from home creates an unexpected risk for workers’ compensation claims. If the employee trips over a garden hose while taking a client’s phone call in the backyard, would the claim be covered?
  • Remote access to company computer systems can compromise your network security and trade secret protections.

If your company would like to offer work-from-home options, we recommend the following steps to minimize the risks:

  • Identify which jobs are eligible for telecommuting and be consistent in your approvals of staff requests.
  • Agree on the number of work hours an employee is expected to complete, and remind non-exempt staff that meal and rest period policies still apply.
  • Agree on work priorities and performance standards, and hold employees accountable for deliverables. Regular check-ins and performance assessments may be especially important for telecommuting staff.
  • Provide company-owned equipment such as a laptop, cell phone, or other necessary electronics, and search usage histories regularly.
  • Reduce safety risks and company liability by setting guidelines for work locations. This could include prohibiting the employee from working away from the home office and reminders to immediately report injuries that occur during work hours.
  • Consider requiring the employee to work from the office at regular intervals (such as one day per week) and encourage on-site attendance at key meetings to maintain personal connections with co-workers.
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