Q: May an employee who is telecommuting from a remote location work a schedule other than his/her scheduled hours outlined in the Telecommuting Agreement?
A. No. Telecommuting employees should maintain the schedule outlined in the signed Telecommuting Agreement and be available at any point in time during those scheduled work hours to conduct business. The telecommuting arrangement is provided to an employee as a means of enhancing productivity and not necessarily to allow him/her to work whatever hours are suitable to him/her. Telecommuting employees, for example, should not use their remote work arrangements to conduct personal business or address non-work related issues.
Q: If I have many employees in my department interested in telecommuting and I am not able to accommodate every request, how do I prioritize the requests and not create a morale problem in my department?
A: It is important to set realistic expectations about the level of employee participation permitted. At management’s discretion, a job is amenable to telecommuting if the job or some components of it can be done off-site without disruption to the flow of work and communication.
To minimize potential morale problems, approval of the telecommuting arrangements should be based on specific, work-related criteria, such as functions/tasks of the position, and departmental staffing needs as determined by management. In addition, Managers/Supervisors should ensure that work will be equitably distributed so that telecommuting schedules do not require in-office staff to do the telecommuter’s work.
Q: If a telecommuting situation is not going well or as planned for any variety of reasons, is it really possible to revert back to the original work arrangement?
A: Yes it is, and it should be clear from the start of the telecommuting arrangement that certain requirements must be met in order to sustain the telecommuting arrangement. These requirements should be included in the Telecommuting Agreement which is required before the arrangement takes effect.
Q: Are there categories of employees who are simply not eligible to be considered for telecommuting arrangements?
A: Yes; however, fair consideration should be provided to any request that comes forward. It is not uncommon to require employees in positions requiring in-person contact/customer service or that rely upon specific equipment or supplies to work on site. Management and/or supervisory roles also generally may be excluded from consideration for telecommuting arrangements unless a department finds such an arrangement practical in meeting job responsibilities.
Q: What is the difference between telecommuting arrangements and flexible work arrangements?
A: Telecommuting arrangements are a form of flexible work arrangements which simply address the work location issues. Other forms of flexible work arrangements include remote work, alternate work schedules (such as 9/80 or 4/10), part-time employment, job sharing, and a number of other options.
Q: Are there any negative consequences or drawbacks that an employee might face if he/she works in a telecommuting arrangement?
A: Quite a bit of research has been conducted on the ramifications of different flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting. Two primary issues relating to telecommuting were identified in this research, one relating to an absence of a social element for those who telecommute extensively and a second relating to a perception that being off site might inhibit career opportunities due to issues of availability. Both these potential issues may be dealt with in a well planned telecommuting arrangement and should not prevent an interested employee from pursuing this program.
Q: What is the risk or exposure that a department may have as it relates to workers’ compensation claims?
A: When employees work at home or at a tele-work site, the department (University) remains responsible for safety and workers’ compensation risks. When employees work from home, the manager must be aware of any potential risks and should do whatever is necessary to manage or control them. If the risks cannot be reasonably eliminated, the telecommuting arrangement may not be approved. If department heads or managers have specific questions that they would like to discuss before a telecommuting agreement is reached, they are encouraged to call Office of Risk Management or Ergonomics to address specific issues.
Q: If an employee is authorized by the department to telecommute on a strictly limited occasional basis (not weekly or following an agreed upon schedule), must he/she complete the formal review and approval process?
A: No. Employees who are authorized to telecommute only occasionally are not required to complete the formal review and approval process. However, any schedule arrangement must be approved by the individual’s supervisor before implementation.
Q: Can employees who telecommute claim a tax deduction for working at home?
A: Employees are responsible for complying with all applicable tax laws. The University is not responsible for substantiating an employee’s claim. Any and all employees participating in telecommuting should seek advice from a tax advisor at their own expense.