Telecommuting is here to stay.
Whether you like it or not, more and more businesses are offering a work-from-home option for their employees. And more and more employees are looking for companies that allow them to telecommute for at least part of the work week.
As the demand for telecommuting rises, so does the need for employers to approach it in an intelligent and rational manner. One of the worst things any employer can do is to jump into a telecommuting arrangement without having fully considered the consequences.
Telecommuting agreements give employers and employees a common framework for understanding the expectations surrounding the possibility of working from home. Theoretically you can include anything you want in a telecommuting agreement. However, there are some common elements your HR department should be sure to include in every telecommuting agreement you sign.
- Permission-based arrangement. Telecommuting should never be viewed as an employee right. It's a privilege that employers can offer to employees at the discretion of company executives and supervisors. Your telecommuting agreement should clearly discuss the fact that you have the right to terminate a telecommuting arrangement at any time and for any reason.
- Conditions & expectations. The telecommuting agreement should also describe your expectations regarding how the arrangement will work and how the employee will interact with the home office. Somewhere in the document you should clearly identify the equipment the company will provide the employee and how it will be maintained off-site.
- Security issues. When your employee works from home, the security of electronic data and vital business documents will be compromised. It's not unreasonable for telecommuting agreements to require workers to maintain electronic security and locked file cabinets in their home office.
- Performance metrics. Will your telecommuting employee be required to work a specific amount of hours each week? Or will he be expected to produce a specific amount of work on a monthly basis? The telecommuting agreement is the place to scrupulously detail your performance expectations for telecommuters, keeping in mind that a flexible work schedule is one of the things they find most attractive about the arrangement.
- Reporting. Telecommuters should be expected to routinely report their progress and/or timesheets to their supervisors. At a minimum, a telecommuting agreement should require monthly reporting–but it's easier to bird-dog problems when reporting occurs weekly.