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Telework and remote work will always be with us in some form or another, said Jim Reidy, an attorney and chair of the Labor and Employment Law Group at Sheehan Phinney in Manchester, N.H.
Employers, he said, need to find the right jobs, the right employees and the right circumstances to make telework arrangements work for all concerned.
Reidy spoke March 15 at a packed session at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
Through a series of questions, quizzes and statistics, Reidy told attendees that although telecommuting is on the rise nationwide, HR professionals must be aware of the potential legal pitfalls. Those include wage and hour fraud, e-mail abuse, theft and misappropriation, invasion of privacy, social media issues, workplace accidents, and employer liability for misconduct.
Making headlines last year, Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, and Best Buy ended their telework arrangements, Reidy noted. He said the companies all had one thing in common: they were performing poorly.
“Bringing everyone into the workplace is often a reaction to a decline in profits or the company’s failure to meet organizational goals,” he said.
“A typical telecommuter is 49 years old, college-educated, a salaried, non-union employee in a management or professional role [who] earns at least $58,000 a year and works for a company with more than 100 employees,” Reidy said.
The average teleworker works remotely two to three days per week. Regular telework has increased 103 percent since 2005.
If workers “with compatible jobs and a desire to work from home did so just half the time, the national savings would total more than $700 billion a year,” Reidy said. In breaking down that savings, he said, a typical business would save $11,000 per person per year and telecommuters would personally save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year.
Reidy said, in his experience, the greatest challenges HR has with telework and remote access are:
“With each technology advance and practice related to remote access, there are benefits and potential pitfalls,” Reidy said.
Benefits of currently available technology:
Pitfalls of currently available technology:
Reidy told attendees that HR professionals are in a position to help ensure that working remotely is successful.
“Best practices for both an employer and employee take planning and constant attention,” he said. Tips from experts include the following:
“That’s really important,” he said. “I recommend an agreement of some sort.”
“Your telework agreements should be longer than one year and reserve the right to call that person back” in to work in the office, he said.
A telework agreement should include:
Reidy said that “if current trends continue, telework remote access in 2030 will likely involve a blend of traditional workplace culture and even better technology.
Aliah D. Wright is an editor/manager for SHRM Online.
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