Busi­nesses should set out expectatio­ns for work­ing re­motely

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - Television Listings Today In History - BY KAREN MICHAEL

Many em­ploy­ers and work­ers are set­tling into their new norm of so­cial dis­tanc­ing and, if pos­si­ble, re­mote work­ing.

While it is crit­i­cal that em­ploy­ers of­fer as much flex­i­bil­ity as pos­si­ble to their work­ers, com­pa­nies should set out in writ­ing expectatio­ns around the tem­po­rary tele­work ar­range­ment.

David Fram with the Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Law In­sti­tute said em­ploy­ers should ad­vise tem­po­rary tele­work­ers that this is an in­terim ar­range­ment. Em­ploy­ers should tell work­ers that “We un­der­stand that you might not be able to per­form all of your job’s es­sen­tial func­tions dur­ing this tem­po­rary pe­riod be­cause you will be work­ing re­motely.”

This type of notice will pro­tect em­ploy­ers from claims that on-site at­ten­dance is not an es­sen­tial func­tion of the job when em­ploy­ees re­turn to work.

Agree­ments should in­clude the fol­low­ing:

1. Good faith ef­forts: Ad­vise em­ploy­ees that the ar­range­ment re­quires the co­or­di­na­tion and good faith ef­forts of the em­ployee and the com­pany in or­der to be suc­cess­ful.

2. The ar­range­ment can be changed at any time: Re­mind em­ploy­ees that the tele­work ar­range­ment can be changed or al­tered at any time for any rea­son. It should state: “Re­quir­ing the as­so­ci­ate to come into the of­fice does not change the job, nor does it con­sti­tute con­struc­tive dis­charge. The as­so­ci­ate must at all times be flex­i­ble and able to re­turn to the work­place at any time with­out notice.”

3. Equip­ment: Make it clear that equip­ment pro­vided by the com­pany is to be used for busi­ness pur­poses only. The em­ployee should sign a doc­u­ment spell­ing out which com­pany prop­erty is be­ing used and agree to take ac­tion to pro­tect the prop­erty.

4. Con­fi­den­tial­ity of work: Tele­work em­ploy­ees should en­sure the pro­tec­tion of pro­pri­etary com­pany and cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion ac­ces­si­ble from their home of­fice.

5. Pol­icy com­pli­ance: Those with a tele­work ar­range­ment must com­ply with all ap­pli­ca­ble com­pany poli­cies, in­clud­ing those con­tained in the em­ployee hand­book and those im­ple­mented in ad­di­tion to the hand­book. That would in­clude pro­hibit­ing a tele­worker from adding a sex­u­ally ex­plicit emoji while reviewing a Google doc­u­ment with another em­ployee while both work re­motely.

6. Safe work en­vi­ron­ment: Em­ploy­ees need to des­ig­nate a spe­cific work area and agree that the work en­vi­ron­ment is safe and free from known haz­ards. They also need to be re­minded that in­juries suf­fered by the em­ployee while at the home work lo­ca­tion that arise dur­ing the course of em­ploy­ment while in con­junc­tion with reg­u­lar work du­ties may be cov­ered by the com­pany’s work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion pol­icy.

7. Vis­i­tors: Th­ese are dif­fi­cult times be­cause many peo­ple have chil­dren at home, but in gen­eral, vis­i­tors dur­ing the work­ing time with­out per­mis­sion and au­tho­riza­tion from the com­pany should be pro­hib­ited. The com­pany needs to make clear that it as­sumes no re­spon­si­bil­ity or li­a­bil­ity for vis­i­tors to a tele­work site.

8. Work sched­ule: Em­ploy­ees should main­tain a work sched­ule or the agree­ment should set some stan­dard for work­ing time. The em­ployee should agree to be ac­ces­si­ble by phone or email within a rea­son­able time pe­riod dur­ing the agreed-upon work sched­ule. Once set, reg­u­lar at­ten­dance is an es­sen­tial func­tion of the job.

9. Time: Tele­work em­ploy­ees who are not ex­empt from the over­time re­quire­ments of the Fair La­bor Stan­dards Act will be re­quired to record all hours worked in a man­ner des­ig­nated by the com­pany. En­ter­ing ac­cu­rate time for all work­ing time is crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of the telecom­mut­ing ar­range­ment.

10. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of du­ties: All em­ploy­ees who tele­work should be ex­pected to com­mu­ni­cate at the be­gin­ning of the week with the ex­pected tasks to be ac­com­plished for the week. Progress re­ports shall be sent daily to man­age­ment.

11. Child care: Tele­work is not de­signed to be a re­place­ment for child care. How­ever, dur­ing th­ese un­usual cir­cum­stances, em­ploy­ers should be as em­pa­thetic and flex­i­ble as pos­si­ble.

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