The fact that there are no structured programs in place for most states with regard to telework is the biggest challenge that employers face when considering whether to implement a formal remote work program. Most companies have informal policies that can vary greatly depending on the employee, the nature of the employee's work and the supervisor's willingness to support remote work. Most companies provide every employee with a portable computer and VPN (Virtual Private Network) license and leave it up to individual teams to determine remote work arrangements providing that those arrangements comply with current employment laws for the state as well as company policy.
I've watched some employees whose expertise was valuable to their company negotiate working from completely different states to attend graduate school while others aren't even allowed time to work from home to aid needy relatives because their boss just didn't like the idea...all within the same organization.
I believe the key to creating a win-win scenario is to understand all of the factors at play from the perspective of your employer and make sure to focus on all of the benefits that will be realized by your boss and your company as a whole. Even if that benefit is as simple as your continued employment with the company if you know that you are an extremely necessary and difficult to replace part of your team.
You've got to understand all of the cards on the table. Just because you have a desperate need to pick up your kids from school or tend to a parent or loved one, doesn't mean that your company has the same desperate need to keep you on at the company and make the effort to manage your remote work arrangement. Be careful to look at things from all angles.
Things Employers Must Consider
In office buildings, taking responsibility for the safety or employees is pretty straightforward. Things get murky when you consider what an employer is liable for while employees are completing work tasks at home. Every employer needs to make clear with its remote workers how to promote safety and the steps to take when there are incidents both inside and outside of the workplace.
Part of the reason why safety is such an important consideration is the laws regarding workers compensation in the case of injury while performing work tasks. While state laws differ about what is considered a work-related injury, defining set work hours and job duties performed from home will help employers identify what claims are job related and what claims are not.
If employers have an expense reimbursement policy, it usually easily transfers to a remote work agreement, but making the details clear and ensuring that employees and employers have the right expectations is key.
Out of State Arrangements
Generally, where federal, state, and local laws conflict, the law that benefits the employee most is the one that applies. This of course is all subject to individual cases and impacted by all sorts of circumstances.
A record keeping plan must be in place, especially for non-Exempt employees who are paid hourly. Rest and Meal Periods must be clearly defined and determinations have to be made about whether Travel to Work and other work-related activities are considered compensable work time.
Employers may need to require that remote workers have a homeowner's insurance policy that covers using a part of their home as an office. If additional money is needed to accommodate this, an agreement can be made about who is responsible for the premium payments. For insurance purposes, many small companies also stipulate that client meetings not be held in home offices.
Most companies, especially those that provide laptops and VPN access to employees have built in security policies that make it difficult for employees to release sensitive information. Data security and how it applies at home is an important conversation that needs to take place as part of the remote work arrangement agreement.
Ending the Arrangement
There should always be a written section in your remote work agreement that outlines, in detail, reasons why a remote work agreement can be terminated. There should also be a plan that outlines the protocol for returning company equipment and licenses should the employee decide to leave the company.
Most of these things are easily modified where necessary using the existing company policy. Having a proposal in all of these areas or at least being aware of the stance your Human Resources department takes will make presenting your remote work proposal a more positive and comfortable experience for your boss. Seeing that you took the initiate to understand all of these aspects of telecommuting will also build the trust between you and your boss that is needed for him or her to feel comfortable managing you from afar.