Telecommuting has its perks and its risks
Working remotely from home has gotten much easier, and more popular, over the years thanks to rapid advances in technology, but the arrangement can be quite risky for both employees and employers if not handled correctly.
A recent survey found 84 percent of Americans telecommute more than once a month, and nearly a quarter do so on a weekly basis.
However, employers may not be aware of the legal dangers involved.
According to Rosemary Gousman of labor law firm Fisher & Phillips in Murray Hill, employers need a policy in place to protect themselves. Not anyone can work from home just because they want to, and those guidelines can be mapped out with a written company policy.
"Sometimes it's a good idea to say that you have to have a certain performance level," Gousman said. "If someone's not performing well, the last thing you want them to do is work at home where you can't really supervise them."
Some companies have resorted to trial periods when deciding whether or not an employee can telecommute. Companies try the arrangement for 60 or 90 days, and then evaluate performance to see how it's working.
Gousman said, meanwhile, that not many employers may know that an employee's at-home work environment could set them up for a steep insurance claim.
"Even though someone's working remotely, the employer is still on the hook if that person's injured during the time that they're working," Gousman said. "You don't want them tripping over wires."
Barbara Pachter, a business etiquette expert in Cherry Hill, said telecommuters should allot space in the home specifically for work duties, free from distraction.
"If the kids are in the room and the TV's going on and you're trying to work, you're not going to be successful," Pachter said. "Make sure there's a phone accessible, your books are accessible, your computer's accessible; everything you need is right there so you can get the job done."
According to Pachter, telecommuting comes with its perks, but it's up to the employee to make the most of the time that they should be working.
"Most employees, I believe, are pretty responsible," she said. "They may take time to go see their kids play soccer, but then they're working two to three hours a night to make up for it."
And employees don't want to fall victim of "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome. Even if given the green light to work from home, it's important to show one's face from time to time and stay on management's radar.