Management's Workplace Lawyers

TOP TIP: Developing a Telecommuting Program

April 30, 2014

Telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation for certain employees, and it certainly has become more available for many positions due to technological advances.  In addition, many modern workplaces are exploring workplace flexibility trends in order to facilitate a more efficient workforce.  Therefore, employers might be interested in implementing a telecommuting program.  In doing so, a number of factors should be considered:

  • Position - is the position one that is actually suited to telecommuting?
  • Performance and productivity - how will performance and productivity be monitored?
  • Work hours – how will working time be tracked and monitored?
  • Extent of telecommuting – will there be a limit on the number of days per week that the employee is permitted to telecommute?
  • Communication – how often will the employee be expected to communicate with his supervisor?  Will it be scheduled?  What is the mechanism for communications – phone calls, email, etc.?
  • Eligibility – will employees be required to serve a particular period of service or meet a certain minimum performance standard before being eligible?
  • Equipment – employee or company provided?  And how will IT issues be handled, both in terms of setting up the initial connection and in addressing problems that arise?
  • Security – how will the confidentiality of company information be protected, both electronically and in hard copy?
  • Supplies – these are typically company provided.
  • Liability - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stated that it will not require employers to inspect home offices and it will not hold employers liable for those offices.  However, employers are still liable under workers’ compensation laws for work-related accidents and injuries that occur in a home office.

Other considerations:

  • Any policy should make clear that telecommuting is not a substitute for child/elder care, and that appropriate care arrangements must be made so as not to interfere with telecommuting work.
  • It should also be made clear that any telecommuting arrangement is at the discretion of management, and can be cancelled at any time if, in management’s view, the arrangement does not meet business needs or expectations.

Employees should understand that there may still be times, even on scheduled telecommuting days, that physical presence in the office is required.