Many states now have Executive Orders in place either requesting or requiring employers to allow employees to work from home to the maximum extent possible. Allowing employees to work from home is new ground for many employers, so here are a few tips an employer should keep in mind and traps to avoid in order to make the adjustment easier for all involved:
1. Tip: Provide the tools and software needed so the employee can continue to perform his/her job duties and maintain interaction with other employees. Trap: Make sure IT security measures are in place to maintain data protection and privacy and that the employee has the ability to work in a location within the home that will allow him/her to maintain confidentiality of company and customer information.
2. Tip: Communicate clearly with employees regarding expectations on whether the employee is required to maintain regular business hours and/or whether the employee has more flexibility when work can be completed. Also, if an employee is expected to not work overtime when home, clearly communicate that requirement and that prior approval is needed prior to working overtime. Trap: Make sure the employee understands the need to keep an accurate and thorough record of any and all time worked. This is particularly important for non-exempt employees – both hourly and salaried – to assure there is no wage payment violation or failure to pay overtime.
3. Tip: Communicate factors/performance indicators that will be used to assess an employee's performance. While an employer might want to consider some degree of monitoring to make sure employees are carrying out work assignments as they would normally in the workplace, micromanaging may not be the best solution as it might discourage a culture of self-accountability and trust. Trap: Make sure any factors/performance indicators put into place are being consistently applied to all employees within a particular job class. Also, make sure employees are receiving feedback regarding any issue in a timely manner so that adjustments can be made as needed. Employers should consider scheduling more frequent team teleconferences as a way to keep up with everyone and foster teamwork.
4. Tip: Set realistic expectations and remember this is a stressful time for everyone and moving to an at-home work environment may take some time for trial and error. Give employees time to make adjustments to this new situation. Encourage employees to ask questions if they are not sure about something and encourage employees to share their perspectives about how to best manage workflow and responsibilities. Trap: Make sure employees understand on the front end that the telecommuting arrangement is being done on a trial basis, and it is in the company's discretion to change or cancel such arrangement if it is not working for any reason.
If you have any employment questions, please contact our COVID-19 Task Force