Telecommuting: A Double Edged Sword?


By Lon Leneve

Work­ing from home has become a wide­spread prac­tice with cur­rent esti­mates at some­where between 20 and 30 mil­lion employ­ees telecom­mut­ing. Both the advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of this flex­i­ble work arrange­ment are numer­ous. But in order to deter­mine if telecom­mut­ing will work, man­age­ment should be aware of the road­blocks and cre­ate solu­tions before extend­ing a telecom­mut­ing ben­e­fit to employees.

Some typ­i­cal telecom­mut­ing issues and ways to solve them:

•  Set­ting remote employ­ees up as pri­vate con­trac­tors. Often man­agers decide rather than go through the has­sle of set­ting up an employee to work from home; they’ll instead make the per­son a pri­vate con­trac­tor. The test to be truly con­sid­ered an inde­pen­dent con­trac­tor, as a legal mat­ter, is quite high and is much more than just a dif­fer­ent label for the same employee.

Solu­tion: Research your local laws on inde­pen­dent con­trac­tors. Often it’s best to leave an employee as an employee ver­sus a contractor.

•  Main­te­nance of proper and nec­es­sary employ­ment records. Items like hours worked, records, min­i­mum wage com­pli­ance etc. are still impor­tant, per­haps more so, when an employee works from home.

Solu­tion: Track hours worked and expenses incurred for a telecom­muter the same way you would for an in-house employee. Work-from-home employ­ees should be held to the same stan­dard, espe­cially in regard to time off the clock.

•  Lack of process for con­fi­den­tial­ity of records and infor­ma­tion. A large part of our busi­ness includes the trans­fer of third party infor­ma­tion. The ques­tion that arises is whether the process by which the telecom­muter is access­ing the records and data itself is secure.

Solu­tion: Ensure encryp­tion encod­ing is being used. Insist the employee change pass­words fre­quently. Cre­ate restrict­ing covenants that pro­tect sen­si­tive data and safe­guard third party information.

Last and per­haps most impor­tantly, ensure you doc­u­ment the poli­cies. Have the employee agree to them with a sig­na­ture on the con­tract. The signed doc­u­ment should not only estab­lish the para­me­ters of the arrange­ment, but also the rights rel­e­vant to the two par­ties in the agreement.

All the issues dis­cussed in this arti­cle are addressed in Compli’s “Social Media in the Workplace-Are You Pro­tected” Webi­nar fea­tur­ing guest speaker Chris Hoff­man, Part­ner at Fisher & Philips, LLP. Watch for free.

Lon Len­eve is Pres­i­dent of Com­pli and can be reached at