telecommuting for a career

Considerations for Offering Telecommuting as a Scheduling Option

Anthea Business Development

Telecommuting offers organizations the opportunity to reduce commuting costs, promote improved work-life balance and increase the pool of qualified job candidates.

Many employers are offering telecommuting—the ability to work remotely from home or another location—as a way to reduce commuting costs, promote work-life balance and increase the pool of qualified job candidates. This trend emerged in the 1990s as personal computers allowed more professionals to perform their jobs off-site. Thanks to many organizations emphasizing the need to be environmentally-friendly and increase time efficiency, telecommuting has only grown in popularity.

However, telecommuting offers both employees and their employers’ benefits that go beyond the time, money and energy savings associated with reduced travel. In fact, these benefits extend into nearly every facet of the work structure.

Benefits for the Employer

Consider the following examples of how telecommuting can benefit the employer:

  • The cost of energy, furniture and space in the workplace is greatly reduced.
  • Productivity can increase, as employees can dress and work more comfortably in their own home than in an office and are away from the distractions of the workplace.
  • Quality of work can improve as a result of employees’ higher morale and the feeling that they have a greater ownership of their work.
  • Employees are more accessible during the time that they would normally be driving to and from work.
  • Telecommuting policies can significantly reduce absenteeism and tardiness amongst employees, especially due to weather, traffic and other conditions that deter employees from travelling to an office.
  • The ability to work from home appeals to prospective and existing employees alike, as it offers flexibility for those who have a long commute and encourages employees who may have to relocate for a spouse or want a greater work-life balance not to leave the company, which can save money lost due to turnover.
  • Employees feel trusted, which not only improves the working relationship between employees and their supervisors, but also empowers employees to work hard to retain that sense of trust.

Benefits for the Employee

Telecommuting can be advantageous to employees for the following reasons:

  • It improves work-life balance, especially among employees with many commitments or otherwise lengthy commute times.
  • Employees can more easily save time off for pre-planned vacations by working despite rough weather and traffic conditions that may deter travel.
  • The work atmosphere may be more comfortable and accommodating, particularly for employees with disabilities.
  • It eliminates the costs associated with commuting, such as gas, parking and car wear and tear.
  • Employees don’t have to deal with the stress of deciding between keeping their job or relocating to live in a new area.

Potential Drawbacks

Despite the many benefits, there are some potential problems to consider when offering a telecommuting policy, including:

  • Employers must make an initial investment in equipment for an employee’s home office.
  • Employers are unable to closely monitor their off-site employees’ use of time.
  • Without access to on-site IT assistance, technology problems can be more difficult to remedy.
  • Employees who telecommute are not as visible as workers who are in-house, which limits the likelihood of promotions.
  • Employees who telecommute may find it difficult to collaborate using electronic means.
  • It may be more difficult for remote employees to build relationships with their colleagues, creating a sense of isolation and a lack of trust and support.
  • Telecommuting may not be a suitable option for all employees.

Recommendations

Consider these recommendations when implementing a telecommuting policy for your work population:

  • Select telecommuters who are trustworthy, motivated, disciplined and have a home office that is safe and conducive to productive work.
  • Work with managers and supervisors in developing a telecommuting program that ensure everyone’s needs and expectations are met.
  • Establish a written policy that outlines the guidelines of teleworking, taking the following into account:
    When is the individual expected to work, take lunch and other breaks?
    What is the employee expected to achieve, and with what equipment and materials?
    What are the telecommuter’s rights, liabilities and obligations?
    What are the individual’s on-site hours, if any?
  • Require all telecommuting employees to sign the policy, establishing an acknowledgement and agreement with the policy. Include a statement addressing that telecommuting is a privilege and can be terminated at any time.
  • Outline violations of the telecommuting policy for employees and post them on your company’s intranet site. Also, outline applicable disciplinary actions that will take place if the policy is violated.

Legal Considerations

Keep in the mind the following legal considerations when creating a telecommuting program:

  • Employment standards legislation—Employees who work remotely are not exempt from provincial employment standards rules and occupational health and safety legislation, including the right to minimum wage, public holidays, overtime pay, eating periods, statutory leaves and more.
  • Obtaining liability insurance—Make sure that your company’s liability coverage protects against injuries to a third party and damage to property caused by employee negligence while the employee is working remotely. Also, require employees to possess homeowners or renters insurance that cover home offices.
  • Protecting confidential information—Take precautions to track the information employees are using at home. To do so, take the same measures that you would if your employees were working on-site.
  • Privacy concerns—Make employees aware that their communications will not be private, even when working from home, as they are working on company time and with company equipment.
  • Avoiding discrimination—When implementing a telecommuting policy, companies must take the necessary precautions to avoid violating provincial and federal discrimination laws. Excluding certain employees from the privilege to telecommute should be based on legitimate business criteria.

Telecommuting can be a great option for employers and employees alike. Consult legal experts when creating a telecommuting policy to discuss potential compliance issues. Contact Mumby Insurance Brokers, Inc. for more information on determining whether this scheduling option suits your organization.