Managing Mobile Employees
The need for flexibility has certainly always been a topic of conversation amongst Human Resources professionals and management. Due to the diversity imminent in today’s workplace, the workforce population is comprised of individuals from different walks of life as well as several generational groups. Due to the fact that Millennials make up a large segment of the workforce, it is essential that employers understand their needs and expectations.
Realistically speaking, there are very few organizations that can successfully address all of the unique preferences of employees, however a concerted effort should be made if it is identified that the company will benefit significantly. One of the most frequently requested arrangements is the opportunity to work from home; across generational lines, the bulk of employees are interested in having the ability to manage personal and professional lifestyles. The commonly held belief is that this cannot be done if employees are required to be physically present in the work location during certain core hours.
Millennials hold the belief that, in order to maintain work-life balance, they should be given the opportunity to work remotely and outside of traditional business hours. In response to the overwhelming requests from a significant portion of the workforce, many employers are dissecting their policies in an effort to attract and retain employees. Once your organization has identified remote work arrangements as a viable option, there are several ways to ensure that your employees remain productive and the bottom line objectives are addressed.
Track Time Accordingly
A significant amount of risk is associated with remote work arrangements, specifically based on the fact that time must be tracked appropriately. Non-exempt employees are professionals that do not have direct supervisory authority and are not responsible for highly technical or specialized functions; these individuals are paid on an hourly basis. On the other hand, exempt employees are mid to senior level professionals with the ability to make decisions and lead others; exempt employees receive salaries regardless of hours worked.
Overtime laws impacting non-exempt employees frequently change, requiring a great deal of attention to the manner in which time is recorded; within conventional work settings, employees can both track time electronically and rely on management to account for hours worked. In the absence of physical presence in the office, a reliable electronic tracking system must be in place.
From a compliance perspective, if your organization’s remote workforce policy includes non-exempt employees, there are several things to be mindful of. First, be sure to maintain a current list of non-exempt employees- only one violation of overtime pay regulations can result in significant financial and legal impacts. It is also important to establish policies regarding specific work hours, for example, an email sent on a Saturday can qualify as overtime for a non-exempt employee. Lastly, consider the composition of your workforce and the duties of each position; there may be some roles that are classified as non-exempt that will better serve the organization with a few additional duties added, changing the classification to exempt and eliminating the tedious time tracking process.
Amongst the many reasons why organizations have reservations regarding remote working arrangements is liability. In most cases, it is not clear when an employee truly ‘clocks in and out’ when working outside of the office. What if an employee injures himself while working from home? How about if an employee is sending a work related email while driving and harms someone? In conjunction with seeking out legal counsel to provide guidance regarding your organization’s unique circumstances, you should also develop specific written procedures addressing employer-sanctioned activities consisting of clear expectations for remote employees. While most of the information within these policies may seem fairly rudimentary, consider the fact that explicitly documenting these rules will serve as an additional layer of protection. Ensure that the organization also has sufficient insurance coverage to sustain the remote employee population.
Ensure Employee Availability
Remote work arrangements should only be extended to employees deemed trustworthy, however it is important to set the precedence with a policy that stipulates expectations of availability. Consider the unique, position specific circumstances that might require work outside of traditional work hours and empower managers to make discretionary decisions. Be sure to provide employees with the necessary technology to remain actively engaged and productive, such as video conferencing and messaging. It is also important to remain aware of the fact that remote work is founded on the principle that flexibility is important to employees, therefore try to avoid rigid work hour requirements.
Ending the Arrangement
Assuming that adequate due diligence, including disseminating policy documents and explaining expectations, has been done the accountability for performance is with the employee. In the event that the employee is significantly underperforming and not meeting expectations, implement the applicable disciplinary procedures. It may be deemed necessary to end the arrangement and revert to the traditional in-office work structure. Ultimately, the decision must be made in favor of optimal levels of productivity and organizational impacts.
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