Employees are asking to continue their work from home. What do you need to know about making work from home a permanent option for employees? Who should be eligible? How are business operations affected? What about insurance and workers’ compensation policies?
As a virtual accounting firm operating under a distributed model since 2013, we, at Summit CPA, have experienced the transition from conducting business in a physical office environment to having our team entirely remote in a virtual office setting. With that said, we have some advice for business leaders regarding the steps they should consider taking if they would like to offer their employees the option of working from home indefinitely. Fortunately, these steps are simple and easy to execute.
Step 1: Set Eligibility Requirements for Remote Employees
If you want to transition your business from a brick-and-mortar office to a partially distributed or hybrid team, determining who can work from home is a must. You can achieve this by setting eligibility requirements that take into account the nature of a person’s job and their home environment.
You may choose to take into account the job responsibilities of each staff member who wants to work from home to see if they have a job that is conducive to remote work. One example might be that you choose to refrain from having employees who are dealing with sensitive information work from home and require that they work in the office instead to maintain a certain level of security.
Also, you may want to consider what equipment an employee will need to work remotely. For example, you may decide that employees who require only a computer, printer, and strong internet connection can work from home, while employees who need access to much more expensive or specialized equipment cannot. Additionally, it would be best if you determined whether an employee can work in a home that is safe and free from potential hazards.
Step 2: Review and Revise Business Operations Accordingly
You can start laying the groundwork for your employees’ transition to working remotely on a permanent basis by reviewing and revising relevant policies and procedures, while simultaneously taking into account the now virtual context. While reviewing these items, we recommend looking at and setting standards for the following:
Taking into account each employees’ position and responsibilities with your company, determine the number of hours you expect your eligible employees to work from home. These times may vary and can consist of you requesting that some employees work the standard 40 hours a week from home, while others work from home 32 hours a week with the expectation that they attend mandatory, in-person meetings at the office one day a week.
While some companies choose to have all of their employees adhere to specific standards regarding response times to internal and external communications, others may set response time standards based on an employee’s position (e.g., customer service team members may be expected to respond sooner to correspondences than project leaders). Whichever route you decide to take to develop guidelines around internal and external communications, make sure that a standard is in place for your remote employees to follow.
If you require your employees to track the time they spend working while at home, it’s imperative that you also set guidelines around this practice. These guidelines can dictate the type of tracking software your employees should use, as well as list steps that employees can follow to track their working hours appropriately.
For example, you might ask your remote staff members to detail the exact project they’re working on along with the time at which their work on the project begins and ends. These notes help determine your employee’s level of productivity and whether they can complete work in a timely fashion while operating remotely.
Step 3: Check Your Workers’ Compensation Policy
If you plan on giving your employees the option to work from home on a permanent basis, we suggest checking your workers’ compensation policy first to see if it needs to be revised. Your policy should include specific language regarding what the policy will and will not cover in relation to costs incurred from employees working from home.
Resources like new technology an employee has to buy to make sure their home office is up to standard, as well as office supplies and any other relevant equipment, should be listed in your policy.
In fact, revising your policy now will help prevent you from having to review employee requests for reimbursement for items that may or may not be approved under your current workers’ compensation policy on an ad hoc basis.
The Work From Home Shift
The shift from having employees work in an office to allowing them to work from home can be a lot smoother if you’ve already done the work ahead of time to make it so. Also, by laying the groundwork for this transition right now, you can help make this temporary situation easier on your team through the creation and revision of relevant policies and procedures. Ultimately, following the steps highlighted here can make certain aspects of your business operations that much more efficient without additional stress.