In 2010 Congress passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The law requires federal agencies to assess and implement telework (aka telecommuting or work-from-home) arrangments for its workforce to the maximum extent practicable without sacrificing operations of the agency or employee performance. The US Office of Personnel Managment recently published a Guide to Telework in the Federal Government. The Guide is intended to provide practical information to assist federal agencies and employees in implementing telework arrangements.
Some private employers have long used telecommuting as an option for certain types of employment. Telecommuting (or telework) can reduce an employer’s real estate and energy costs, promote management efficiencies, allow for work to get done during periods of inclement weather or other emergencies and allow greater employee flexibility for work-life balance. The Guide published by OPM may provide useful guidance for employers considering allowing certain types of employees to telework. Considerations include:
- Telework arrangements should have the expectations and understandings between the employer and employee set forth in a written agreement or document;
- Employee need to understand that telework is a privilege, not a right;
- Telework is only satisfactory so long as it does not reduce employee performance or the operations of the employer;
- Determine the location of the telework work site;
- If the teleworking employee is nonexempt, outline how worktime will be recorded and reported;
- Ascertain what equipment will be needed for the telework assignment and who will be responsibile for maintaining it;
- Consider how injuries incurred during course and scope of telework will be reported and handled;
- Specify frequecy of telework anticipated (e.g., days of week or hours of day that are to be worked during telework);
- Communication expectations during telework (e.g., frequency of contact and whether the contact will be by telephone, e-mail, instant messages and the expected time frame for responses to inquiries made during telework);
- How illness or absences will be reported and handled on telework days.
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