Accommodating flexible work schedules, including arrangements where employees work from home, has steadily grown in popularity and is on a fast track to becoming the new norm. In fact, according to a report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of Americans working remotely has jumped by 159% between 2005 and 2017.
Technologies like videoconferencing, file-sharing, project management and time-tracking tools are making it easier for employees to work from home. Thanks to these advancements, more and more organizations are adopting “permanent flexibility,” a culture where employees are encouraged to work when and where they feel most productive.
Whether or not remote working arrangements are practical for your business depends on many factors. While the concept has its perks, the reality is that most jobs can’t be performed from home. Industries like retail, dining, and transportation are just a few. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29% of the workforce can work from home—about 42 million of the 144 million U.S. workers.
The limits of remote working are being tested amid the spread of COVID-19
OSHA published guidelines for preparing the workplace for the outbreak which included staggering work shifts, downsizing operations, and delivering services remotely. Employers are putting business contingency plans in place that include sending their employees home to work to comply with the recommendations.
There are a lot of things to consider when allowing employees to work remotely, here we explore a few:
Paying your employees
The same laws apply to workers at home as they do to workers in the office. Exempt employees need to be paid in full for any week in which they perform any work remotely. Non-exempt employees generally are entitled to pay only for time actually worked remotely, whether a full or a partial day. Properly recording and paying non-exempt employees for all time worked is critical to manage the risk of off-the-clock and overtime claims.
Ensuring a safe work environment
Employers have obligations under federal and state safety laws to provide a safe and secure work environment for employees. This extends to remote work. While it’s not feasible for employers to inspect employees’ homes, they should communicate safety requirements and encourage employees to report any injuries incurred during work time.
The same practices employees follow in the office should be followed when they are working from home. Employees should lock computers when not in use and log out at the end of the day to deter deliberate or unintentional security breaches.
Setting a precedence
The outbreak calls for extraordinary measures to be put in place. To avoid the assumption that working from home will become the norm after the outbreak eases, communicate to your staff that these accommodations are temporary and in response to the current situation.
Whether you’re a company that encourages flexible work schedules or one that has no choice but to allow employees to work from home during the current outbreak, there’s a lot to consider. For many, the benefits far outweigh the accommodations that must be made. After all, maintaining the basic day-to-day operations of your business while ensuring the health and safety of your workforce is the primary objective.
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