In these unprecedented times, many people are working remotely without having agreed to a remote work policy from their employers. Each state has its specific requirements and regulations regarding types of employees. Please be sure to defer to those policies and regulations to ensure that a remote work policy is compliant. Here are some issues to consider.
If a firm does allow remote work, then availability expectations should be outlined in the policy. Many firms are allowing extended hours. Employees must communicate regular working hours and the firm must approve those hours. By communicating schedules, everyone involved has clearer expectations. This creates a healthy relationship between employees and management.
Manage productivity. Employees who bill for their time, their productivity is easily measured. Employees who do not bill for their time (administrative personnel) will be a bit challenged in measuring productivity. Many times, administrative personnel who respond quickly and appropriately will be more productive than ones who do not.
Remote workers need the right tools to complete their work and to maintain their firm’s security. It is critical that firms approve all electronics being used. These electronics should not be shared with other members of a household. If an employee does not have appropriate electronics, a firm should provide the equipment for them.
All remote employees must have secure internet connections with secure passwords.
It is strongly recommended that cyber security insurance providers be notified of what percentage of the workforce is working remotely and provide any other information that is necessary. Be sure that the existing cyber liability insurance includes remote work.
It is strongly recommended that a firm have all its data (accounting, email, documents and specific databases) in the cloud. A firm must ensure that its cloud provider is secure and have comprehensive back up procedures. Its s recommended that all business partners provide certificates of insurance.
All remote workers will find that electronic files make so much more sense than hard copy documents. Again, it is critical that a firm have the appropriate cloud provider to ensure that all employees are accessing and saving documents efficiently.
Technical support must be available during regular business hours and after those hours. This support should be easily accessible to all employees.
Communication with technical support and other employees is critical and must be frequent and meaningful. Supervisors must initiate frequent communications. The more engaged employees are, the more profitable a law firm is.
In a remote work policy, the physical environment should be clearly outlined. Many firms require a separate space which is used exclusively for work. It is understood that other members of a household may enter or occupy this space, but the space should be primarily used for remote work. Sample language may be: The employee will establish an appropriate work environment within his or her home for work purposes. The Firm will not be responsible for costs associated with initial setup of the employee’s home office such as remodeling, furniture or lighting, nor for repairs or modifications to the home office space.
It is important to clearly state that injuries sustained by the employee while at his or her home-work location and in conjunction with his or her regular work duties are normally covered by the firm’s workers’ compensation policy. Telecommuting employees are responsible for notifying the employer of such injuries in accordance with company workers’ compensation procedures. The employee is liable for any injuries sustained by visitors to his or her worksite. Clients should not visit employees at their respective homes.
When an employee requires office supplies, it may be most prudent to ship supplies to that employee as needed. However, because supplies would be in the office and then shipped to an employee’s home, it may make sense to allow employees a budget to purchase supplies.
Many firms are beginning to reopen. Many employees do not want to return to offices. It is critical that firms document all correspondence and enforce policies in a uniform manner. It is important to comply with all HIPPA regulations.
If an employee resides in another state or jurisdiction, payroll taxes may have to be adjusted. It is recommended that the firm’s accounting firm is consulted to ensure compliance.
In summary, this is a new environment for many firms. The firms that embrace this change will be the ones who will thrive. It is expected that more than 50% of the workforce will be working in a remote environment. Firms who embrace this dynamic will focus their future spending on technology and secure document storage and access.
As with any policy, it is important that an attorney reviews it to ensure compliance with current laws. It is also recommended that these policies are reviewed annually, and all employees receive an updated document with corresponding signature.