“When you work from home, a Tuesday looks pretty much like a Saturday.” – Anonymous
In a recent presentation made by attorney Christine Hanley at SHRM’s annual conference, the dangerous triangle of telecommuting was discussed at length. Hanley argued that the “triangle” formed between the points of remote work, online connectivity and the FLSA regulations, “often seems like a dangerous and mysterious expanse of uncharted territory, full of ominous beings such as the Department of Labor (DOL) and an enthusiastic plaintiff’s bar.” She’s not wrong in arguing that there are definitely dangers ahead for businesses that allow workers non-traditional hours, telecommute options and flex schedules. But it’s not something that you should completely discount because of the extra effort involved in setting up a system that truly works for everyone.
Remote Work Pitfalls to Avoid: Danger Ahead!
- Don’t forget to train your managers – employers need to be able to rely on their managers to properly identify the hours and tasks a worker is taking on.
- Don’t go blindly into a telecommute option. First, identify the answers to these key questions and move forward (or not) appropriately.
- Who is doing what for whom? Exempt or not?
- What are they doing? What is the business purpose?
- How are they doing the work? Are they connected?
- Where are they doing it? Are they doing it remotely?
- When are they doing it? Does FLSA play into this?
- Do not assume anything – create documentations to outline your agreement, contract, etc. with your telecommute workforce.
- Do not take all the responsibility on yourself – hold the employee accountable as well by creating a safe harbor policy.
Is it true that telecommuters all wake up, drink coffee, and wear pajamas all day until they have that 3pm video conference with their boss? Is it true that all telecommuters waste time browsing online when they would NEVER do such a thing in the office? Is it true that a Tuesday looks like a Saturday looks like a Monday looks like a Sunday if you work from home? As with most things, I’d argue that telecommute work is what you choose to make of it. Someone who is disciplined in the office is most likely going to remain disciplined and driven and self-motivated when working from home. Is it possible that telecommuters can take advantage of their employer’s time and resources? Absolutely. But isn’t that true also of employees that you pay to come into a building that you spend money on, desks that you paid for, electricity that you write a check for each month? Absolutely! Truth be told, what this argument comes down to is whether or not the pro’s outweigh the con’s for your particular company and your specific market. If the pluses outweigh the negatives, then full speed ahead!