Should You Rethink Your Telecommuting Policy?

A number of large corporations, including IBM, Honeywell, and Yahoo, have reversed or restricted their policy that had allowed employees to work remotely. The reason: It’s believed that when workers are in the same physical location, it improves collaboration.

Still many large corporations continue to permit telecommuting (Forbes posted a list of the 100 such companies).

If you currently allow employees to work remotely, should you continue your policy or make changes?

Benefits of

telecommuting

There are a number of compelling reasons to allow employees to work from their homes:

  • Cost savings to the company. If workers are remote, no office space is required for them.
  • Preference for employees. Many like the arrangement to save time and money on commuting. They also like the work-life balance that working from home affords. Flextime reported that 68% of U.S. workers expected to work remotely rather than commute each day.

Small business strategies

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about a quarter (24%) of workers did some or all of their jobs from home in 2015. More importantly, this work arrangement is highly prized by employees.

In this tight job market, offering flexible work arrangements may be a key benefit that a small company can offer. Flexible work arrangements need not be 100% telecommuting. They can be structured as:

  • Partial telecommuting (e.g., 2-3 days from home and the balance at the company’s offices)
  • Flexible hours (e.g., beginning at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. rather than the company’s normal opening at 9 a.m.)
  • Alternative scheduling (e.g., 4-day weeks)
  • Part-time work

State laws

There’s growing sentiment that workers should be allowed to work from home or have flexible work schedules. New Hampshire and Vermont have Right to Request laws guaranteeing workers the right to ask that they be allowed flexible work schedules. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against a worker who makes a request. The following is from Vermont’s Commission on Women regarding the Right to Request law, which permits two requests each year:

“The employer has the duty to consider in good faith whether the requested arrangement could be granted in a manner that is not inconsistent with its business operations or its legal or contractual obligations. The law identifies several factors the employer may consider: (1) the burden of additional costs; (2) the effect on aggregate employee morale; (3) the effect on ability to meet consumer demand; (4) an inability to reorganize work among existing staff; (5) an inability to recruit additional staff; (6) a detrimental impact on business quality or performance; (7) an insufficiency of work during periods the employee proposes to work; and (8) planned structural changes to the business.” 

Conclusion

Whether you currently permit flexible work arrangements or decide to begin doing so, be sure that your actions conform to the law, and that you address the special issues related to a having a remote workforce, including workers’ compensation, computer security, and communication among employees.

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