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What should employers know about remote work?

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2020 | Employment Law

For several months now, businesses throughout California and across the United States have struggled with social distancing and stay-at-home orders. One of the ways employers responded to these challenges was to allow their employees to work from home.

Now, many of those employers are thinking about using remote work as a bigger part of their business models, even after the lockdown. As Forbes reports, nearly one-quarter of the business leaders who responded to a recent survey said their companies would shift up to 20% of their workers to full-time remote positions. But those changes need to be handled carefully.

Remote work is effective when managed correctly

Ask any manager or business owner, and one of the first concerns they’re likely to express about remote work is that their employees may not be fully effective when they’re not in the office. But the truth is, multiple studies have found remote workers tend to be more productive when they work remotely. As Business News Daily notes, one survey found that remote employees worked the equivalent of 16.8 more days per year than their office-bound colleagues. Other surveys have found corresponding increases in productivity and financial benefits.

However, remote work isn’t for everyone. When you don’t have to keep everyone at home, it’s important to consider who responds well to remote work opportunities and who is better suited to work from the office. The same survey that found remote workers also felt more stressed out. They felt like they had worse work-life balances, and that could lead to early burn-out.

What do business owners and managers need to consider?

To make sure they have the right people working remotely—and to help those employees work as effectively as possible—many experts suggest employers carefully consider:

  • Which positions and employees might best fit remote work opportunities
  • How to maintain the company culture when there’s less face-to-face contact
  • Documentation processes to prevent gaps and cracks in communication
  • How to track, measure and reward good work

Additionally, there are numerous legal factors to consider. The shift from the traditional office to remote work can leave employers in the lurch unless they:

  • Set firm policies for information and data security
  • Revise employment agreements and their employee handbook
  • Remember that workplace safety concerns carry into home offices
  • Comply with all the laws that may apply to out-of-state or international employees

These concerns aren’t overwhelming, but they’re important steps toward protecting your business from unfounded claims. For example, clear policies and systems that track the time employees spend on their work may prove valuable if you need to defend your business against a wage and hours claim. Similarly, the clear expectations you set should help if a regulatory agency follows up on a complaint.