Working from home used to be the exception, but now it’s the norm. Yet, even after years of experience with employees telecommuting, many firms and companies still may not be comfortable with this type of work “relationship,” especially when one employee or another fails to perform.
After all, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, right? What companies need to do is put some stop-gaps in place before a situation goes south. Here’s a checklist of what some of the more common requirements you need to know, as well as a few rules of the road.
Working from home is a privilege
Companies may no longer have executive washrooms or formal dining rooms, but they do offer their fair share of perks and benefits! One of these is the privilege of working from home – a perk that is not given out at random. Instead, employees must meet certain guidelines, but they must also realize that the greater issue is related to “trust”. This benefits both sides. To employees, this means the company trusts its telecommuters to work on their own. To employees, this sends a clear signal that they have huge value to the company.
In general, most companies do not allow new hires to work from home right away because the employer wants to get to know the employee’s work habits and commitment to the organization, as well as help the employee establish relationships in the workplace. Only after a set amount of time—which varies among organizations—does the employee earn the right to request a work-from-home arrangement.
What are the guidelines?
Companies must set up their expectations and requirements for telecommuters so there is no misunderstanding on either side. Aside from particular company requirements, federal law—watched over by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—dictates many of these rules for us. Companies that have Human Resource or Human Capital departments or functions will have these requirements on file. Smaller firms and businesses, however, may not, especially if telecommuting is something new.
Here are the most common requirements among firms and companies:
- Employers should hold their employees accountable by having them sign off on a comprehensive list of all physical and safety requirements, as well as a document that lists the days and hours worked (very few work from home five days a week), home office arrangement, how duties will be performed and measured, and several other items. For example, the telecommuter must have a dedicated office instead of working on a dining room or kitchen table, and children who are at home can’t be a hindrance to the employee getting his or her work done. Some employers even require their employees to even sign into an Instant Messenger when they begin the work day.
- OSHA has a list of safety requirements that employers must meet in the workplace and if employees are working from home. Most of these are common sense, but it’s still important for the employee to know what he or she must do in order to meet the regulations. For example, employees must ensure electrical-related matters are up to code, including labeled circuit breakers, grounded outlets, and frayed or exposed wires. Stairs with four or more steps must have handrails, while the work area must be properly ventilated. Even the home office’s chairs must be in proper working order. If OSHA were to audit an employee’s home office environment, not meeting these guidelines would be a huge problem for the employer.
- Copies of the signed documents should be kept on file by both parties.
Make Your Own Schedule
Depending on the employer and the trust built up with the company, most employees who work remotely have the freedom to make their own schedule—as long as the work is done.
For example, if you’re not a “morning person,” you might put in an 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. day instead of the traditional 9-5. Firms and companies know they have to agree to provide this kind of schedule in order to meet the needs of the multi-generational workplace who want more control over their time.
Flexibility is Key …
Control of your own work hours is important, but so is the commitment you made to your organization when you were hired. When a last-minute meeting or event pops up and you must be in the office, you can’t really tell your supervisor that this is your day to work from home. You have to not only put in the hours required to do your job, but also be on-site or even elsewhere in the field if you need to be in a particular location.
… Yet, You Can Control Your Accountability
You have to be front and center with your supervisors so that they recognize your talents. Don’t be out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Make sure that doesn’t happen by making an effort to be part of the team, even if it is virtual. Working from home is not your ticket to working alone. It is important that supervisors see your talents and respect them in order for you to be successful.
Remember, You’re Competing For Talent
These days, great accounting talent is at a premium, so companies must understand that they are competing with other firms and employers for quality accountants. If telecommuting is one of the benefits offered in the workplace, then by all means promote this to potential hires. Even though they should not be allowed to work from home right away, you’ll retain them for the long term if a work-from-home arrangement is in plain sight.