If your business was able to transition to work from home positions during the Safer at Home order, it may be worthwhile to implement a remote work policy into your employee handbook if it does not already contain one.
By adding a policy to your employee handbook regarding employees who work from home (remotely), you can ensure that you and your employees are on the same page when it comes to telecommuting and what is still expected of their position when working off-site.
Remote, Telecommuting, Work from Home – What’s the difference?
While these are all synonymous in referring to an employee that works from somewhere outside of your main office, there are a few small differences.
Remote – this term is meant to imply that the worker lives outside of the geographic area of the company’s main office. Recently, it is more commonly being used to describe an employee that works outside of the main office as it sounds more modern than “telecommuting.”
Telecommuting – implies that there may (or may not) be some on-site work being done by the employee.
Work from home – although this is general term, it implies that the employee can work outside of the office either on a full-time or part-time basis as determined by the employer.
In today’s blog we will be using these terms interchangeably to refer to any employee working from an offsite location regardless of whether they are working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic or located in the geographic vicinity of the main office.
Why should I have a remote work policy in my employee handbook?
A remote work policy is an agreement between an employer and employee that clearly defines the expectations and responsibilities for employees who work outside of the main office whether it be part-time of full-time, permanent, or temporary.
Your remote work policy should define who is eligible to work remotely, the process for requesting remote work privileges and the approval process for an employee to work remotely. When drafting a remote work policy, it is also important to pay attention to how it interacts with other policies already outlined in your employee handbook.
10 important things to address in your remote work policy:
- Determine who is eligible to work from home. You will need to outline, in detail, who will be eligible for work from home options and who in your company will make that decision. In your policy you should clearly define the criteria that will determine if an employee is eligible to work from home. You will also need to provide latitude and flexibility to make such determinations in emergencies (i.e. the recent COVID-19 pandemic).
- Will there be any required training before an employee can telecommute?
- Will there be a trial period? If so, for how long and what will determine if the employee can successfully work remotely?
- Will there be any assessments for productivity, if so when will the assessments occur and how will the employee be disciplined if he or she falls short of the expected productivity? Make clear in the policy that there is no expectation of privacy in the use of employer-provided equipment, like computers and phones and any content that would be prohibited in the office would also be prohibited while working remotely.
- Will remote workers need to be available during a specific time frame or will they have a flexible work schedule? For example, if your regular working hours are 8am-5pm, you will need to clearly state in your policy that remote employees are expected to be available from 8am-5pm.
- If your remote worker is paid hourly, provide standards for how they should properly record their time, and if necessary, who they need to contact regarding overtime work. Keep in mind that hourly employees are to be paid for all time expended on job-related activities. This means the policy should restrict hourly employees from performing any job-related tasks, even checking and responding to email, outside the normal work hours established for that employee.
- You will need to outline specifically what equipment will be provided by the employer, what out of pocket expenses the employee will be responsible for, and clearly define if the company will reimburse the employee for any out of pocket expenses that allow them to work from home. Depending on where the employee is performing the work, as opposed to the location of the employer, different state or local laws may apply.
- Address security and privacy standards. In your policy you will need to remind employees to only use secure networks when working remotely and to properly dispose of any confidential information that may be printed outside of the office. Further, if the employee is using a employer supplied computer, make clear that the computer may only be used for work-related activities.
- OSHA guidelines do still apply to work from home positions. Will your company require a visit to the employee’s home office to ensure they have a safe work environment?
- Will a telecommuting agreement need to be drafted and signed?
What is the purpose of a work from home policy?
The purpose of your company’s work from home policy should be to optimize the benefits of working remotely while limiting the risks that may come from not having your employee on-site. By covering the 10 factors listed above you clearly define what is expected of your remote employee while limiting your risks as an employer.
If you would like to include a remote work policy in your employee handbook please call the business and employment attorneys of Gerbers Law, S.C. today to assist you in drafting a policy that sets up your employees and managers for successful remote work positions.