Telework is a prevalent practice these days, especially for work that can easily be done remotely (e.g., business consulting, marketing, and programming). According to the State of Remote Work, it’s estimated that 66% of companies allow remote work and 16% have a fully-remote workforce.
If you are thinking about engaging employees to work offsite, be sure to understand how it can benefit you and your employees. But don’t ignore some of the complications for this work arrangement.
Benefits of hiring remote workers
Today’s tight job market has forced some companies to look outside their geographic area to find the talent they need. Fortunately, technology makes it possible for some types of businesses to routinely use a remote workforce. According to Remote.com, having employees work from home or other non-work locations has tremendous benefits for the company as well as for employees. Here are some of those listed by this source:
- “Astonishing” productivity
- Increases employee retention
- Decreases sick days and employee time off
- Increases workforce diversity
- Reduces overhead costs for the company (an estimated $5 billion for U.S. companies using remote workers)
- Reduces costs for employees (e.g., eliminating commuting costs, childcare)
- Reduces stress
- Helps close the gender gap
- Prolongs the careers of older workers
- Helps the environment (reduced greenhouse gas emissions because of less commuting)
- Increases the employee talent pool
- Creates an in-demand benefit for workers of all ages
- Gained acceptance as a work arrangement
- Benefits employees’ work-life balance
- Improves employees’ mental and physical health
Burdens associated with hiring remote workers
While the list of benefits to the business and employees is impressive, there are some drawbacks or complications to consider:
For the company:
- Recordkeeping for employee hours. The company needs to know precisely how many hours are worked and when (not easily done despite signing in and off the company computer). This information is necessary for liability issues (discussed below) and for non-exempt employees subject to overtime rules.
- Coordinating work and communication among employees. Use online tools and apps for these purposes.
- Providing equal support for office and remote workers. For example, does the company pay for a homeworker’s Internet costs? Are there similar career development and mentoring opportunities?
- Addressing state tax issues. You usually need to comply with state withholding requirements based on the worker’s location.
- Complying with employment laws. Just because workers are not on your premises does not relieve the company of compliance responsibilities. For example, notices you’re required to post on your premises (e.g., minimum wage notices) need to be furnished to offsite employees.
- Ensuring safety. You don’t have to inspect an employee’s home, but you may be responsible for a work-related injury there. You need to maintain workers’ compensation (where required by state law) and should check with your carrier or the state on how to define a work-related injury for a remote worker.
- Data security. Consider policies to protect company data, as discussed in a prior blog.
- Getting unplugged. Working from home makes it challenging to separate personal and work life.
- Being lonely. Some people miss the water cooler, and the socialization it represents.
- Staying motivated and focused. It’s too easy to become distracted at home.
Your company may want to engage remote workers, or it may need to do so because of today’s job market. Whatever the motivation, be sure to understand what this arrangement entails.