Effective Telecommuting Considerations

  1. The arrangement must support the office or department’s goals, including productivity, cost effectiveness, and service to internal and external clients. For example, the arrangement should be achieved without: curtailing normal service hours; incurring overtime costs; impairing the unit’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission or administrative function; placing undue burden on others in the unit, whether individual employees or supervisors/managers; or creating problems of safety, security or supervision.
  2. The work should involve clearly defined tasks and well understood results. The focus in telecommuting arrangements must be on results. The department head should communicate in advance what assignments or tasks are appropriate to be performed at the telecommuting site, and what assessment techniques will be used to measure success in meeting performance standards.
  3. Telecommuting is normally reserved for employees in exempt positions, since non-exempt positions require careful tracking of time worked to ensure that overtime policies are properly observed. Telecommuting is more challenging for non-exempt employees due to record keeping requirements that require recording of each workday showing when the employee begins and ends the workday as well as the required meal period. Supervisors of non-exempt employees must ensure that all time worked is recorded and paid properly. 
  4. Telecommuting during the probationary period is not advisable because of the need to clarify job responsibilities, establish relationships with co-workers and clients, and assess suitability for continued employment.
  5. The individual’s work style and work history must support the requirements of the arrangement.
  6. Employees who have performance problems, or who require close supervision, are not good candidates for telecommuting.
  7.  Jobs that require physical presence or constant interaction with co-workers to perform effectively are normally not suitable for telecommuting.
  8. The job tasks must be adaptable to the flexible arrangement. i.e., jobs that entail working alone or working with equipment that can be kept at the alternate work site are often suitable for telecommuting. Examples: writer, editor, analyst, programmer.
  9. Employees whom are telecommuting must be available during their scheduled hours of work. Telecommuting is not intended to be a means for addressing personal responsibilities, e.g. childcare, elder care. If there are small children at home, for instance, the employee should not expect to be the full time caregiver during the hours when he/she is scheduled to work at home.
  10. A written proposal and agreement should be developed and signed by both parties to assure that the performance expectations, all ongoing communication activities, and accountability requirements are clear prior to the initiation of the telecommuting arrangement.
  11. It should be made clear from the onset that approval is subject to change or revocation at any time, should business or performance concerns arise. A trial period should be considered in most cases to provide an opportunity for employee and supervisor/manager to work together in good faith to implement the proposal and to work out minor problems. The original proposal should also be re-negotiated at least annually.
  12. Telecommuting and flexible arrangements should be well communicated to all employees in the department, and the impacts of alternative work arrangements should be well understood and regularly evaluated with an overall consideration for all employees in the office or department who may be impacted by such a change.