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Legalities of Telecommuting —Fiorenza

September 2007
ANEW societal struggle based not on physical characteristics but instead on values, family dynamics and technological changes is once again transforming the workplace. As most human resource managers will tell you, employees belonging to the newer generations (i.e., post-Baby Boomers) are demanding a balance of home and work life.

They value personal relationships (be they family or friendships) more than they value status or title. Consequently, creative employers are developing ways of helping employees achieve this balance, while maintaining morale and maximizing productivity.

Given the technological advances involving computers and the Internet, “telecommuting” has become a viable alternative for some of these employers.

Make no mistake, “telecommuting” or “home-based employment” is transforming the American workplace. One recent study, completed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, estimates that nearly 10 million workers, or 15 pecent of the work force, routinely work from home at least part of the time. But, along with this transformation come numerous management challenges that employers must be prepared to meet.

What’s the Advantage?

Properly utilized, introducing telecommuting to the workplace can help employers and their employees achieve basic work-related goals. For employers, the ability to attract and retain top talent can be greatly enhanced when a remote site work option is put on the table. Potential employees who are unable or unwilling to relocate, or have other basic logistical problems with a particular work site, are available in a telecommuting work environment.

Employers have also experienced (sometimes surprisingly) an increase in productivity when employees are provided the opportunity to work remotely. Travel time, break time and general work distractions are eliminated for telecommuting employees.

More often than not, such employees concentrate on getting the job done and then moving on with their day.

As expected, employers also experience significantly reduced overhead when their physical space demands are not driven solely by the need to house people at work. The technology required to allow access to work systems and foster remote communication through Web-based meetings, teleconferencing, etc., are usually far less than the cost of physical space.

Telecommuting Concerns

Problems arise when employers experiment with home-based employment without first analyzing the threshold issues involved with the arrangement. Here are some of the primary areas of concern.

Measuring and monitoring performance. What methods will be used to evaluate the home-based employee? Are “attendance” measures even relevant? When problems arise, how will coaching, discipline and documentation measures be undertaken, so that all of the traditional human resource “progressive discipline” techniques are undertaken and documented?
 

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