By Karyn Rhodes

Flexible working benefits such as telecommuting are increasingly sought after by workers in search of a better work-life balance. And employers are responding: according to SHRM’s 2018 Employee Benefits Survey results, more than two-thirds of organizations now offer some type of telecommuting. But how do organizations ensure the productivity of remote workers while protecting themselves against risk?

Here are five ways to implement an effective telecommuting approach that meets the needs of both employers and employees.

  1. Create a policy. So everyone is clear on responsibilities and expectations, it’s important to have a policy in place. The document should outline who is eligible for telecommuting, whether prior approval is required, and what, if any, fixed hours must be worked during the day. If non-exempt employees are able to telecommute, the policy should also outline a process for tracking and verifying hours.
  2. Stay social. Off-site workers may feel out of the loop if they’re not part of the camaraderie in the office. To keep them connected, suggested they come into the workplace on a regular basis and use Skype or other video conferencing to include them in meetings.
  3. Maintain responsibilities. While it may be easier for a manager to assign a task to an employee who’s working on site, it’s important to make sure all employees are treated fairly so be sure to not rely disproportionately on those in the office for tasks remote employees can complete as part of their duties.
  4. Make security a priority. Since remote employees will need to access company information, be sure you set guidelines for protection of sensitive data, such as the use of secure servers, encryption, firewalls, VPNs and passwords. And restrict the use of personal devices while on the job.
  5. Comply with safety regulations. Employees’ homes can be considered an extension of the workplace if an injury arises out of employment (meaning, not while the employee is tending to personal business), making you responsible for complying with OSHA and worker’s compensation regulations. Make sure your policy includes guidance about what areas are considered part of the work environment, how employees should keep it safe, and procedures for reporting injuries.

By Karyn Rhodes, VP/Director, Complete HR Solutions, a division of Complete Payroll Solutions.  She can be reached at krhodes@completepayrollsolutions.com or 401.332.9325