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Common Issues with Remote Workers

Transitioning employees to remote work presents unique challenges for organizations. Here are some issues you may encounter:

Tracking hours worked

While there is potential for error with hours worked no matter where an employee physically works, tracking hours may be more difficult for employers with remote employees. Employers should:

  • Communicate to nonexempt remote employees that all hours worked must be reported.
  • Explain what sorts of activities do and do not count as work time.
  • Pay nonexempt employees for any time during which the company has reason to believe work is being performed. If an employee recorded that he worked from 8 to 5, for instance, but the company has records of him sending lengthy emails at 10 p.m., the organization should question whether the employee neglected to record that time rather than ignore the time because the employee didn’t record it.
  • Regularly convey to nonexempt employees that no off-the-clock work is allowed.

Ensuring productivity

One fear for employers is that remote workers will slack off when not directly supervised. However, studies have typically shown remote employees to be just as productive as employees working onsite. Remote workers themselves think so too: A study from employee engagement firm TINYpulse revealed that 91 percent of remote workers believe they actually get more done while working remotely.

In some situations, an employee’s output will be enough to justify the time he or she is being paid for, while in others, there may need to be more regular conversation and/or more detailed tracking about how time is being spent. Some employers find that either in-person or virtual face-time help keep remote employees accountable.

No matter what mode of communication you use, clear objectives and expectations are more important than ever with remote employees.

Workers’ compensation

Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to cover employees who are injured during the course of employment, and this can include injuries sustained when an employee is away from the employer’s premises. This area can be tricky for employers with remote workers, since the employer typically has less control over the work environment, and injury-causing accidents are less likely to have witnesses.

While a remote worker must still be able to show that an injury occurred in the course of employment, unique hazards may be present in a work-from-home arrangement. Take the interior designer who tripped over the family dog and broke her arm while retrieving fabric samples from her home office. A court ruled that the employee’s work environment was her home environment, so her injuries could be compensable. Sandberg v. JC Penney Co., Court of Appeals of OR, No. 0702441, A140276, 6/1/2011

To limit risks with regard to remote workers and workers’ compensation, employers can:

  • Require remote employees to delineate a specific area at home to be used for work.
  • Check the employee’s home workspace for potential hazards and ergonomic appropriateness.
  • Set defined work and break hours so it’s clear when employees are acting in the course of their employment.

Labor law posters for remote workers

State and federal employment law posters inform all employees of their rights, and remote employees have these rights as well. Companies might choose to provide copies of all required labor law posters to remote employees or might post them electronically on a company intranet, making sure employees know where to access them.