Remote Work in Times of the Coronavirus Crisis
Before the novel coronavirus pandemic was upon us, many startups were offering remote work possibilities. And the reason is simple: it makes sense. Here’s why it makes sense and what you should look out for specifically in legal terms if you do offer it.
Why Offer Remote Work or Incorporate it Into Your Business Model?
Before the coronavirus forced many companies to offer remote work, work-from-home arrangements were becoming more popular among startups – tech startups especially. As mentioned above, they’ve been doing so because it makes sense monetarily, professionally, and personally.
Monetarily. Startups’ number one concern is financing and getting that seed funding or moving beyond it to grow devours a lot of time. Remote work saves money, both for the company and the founders or employees. For example, for the company, you save on relocation costs, recruitment savings, overhead costs (e.g., office space and rent). For the employee, the employee saves on commuting costs and (keep in mind time is money) the time it takes to commute – in Los Angeles, the commute time is on average 32 minutes one way totaling just over 5 hours per week while in Palmdale, workers have the longest commute in the country at over two hours roundtrip, totaling more than 10 hours per week – that’s more than one full workday and thousands of dollars a year in transportation costs.
Professionally. Great talent can be sought anywhere in the world and, likewise, great talent can work anywhere in the world. You can find the best person to fill your positions if that person doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same city or have to commute. Plus, according to Gallup and as reported by the New York Times, remote employees in all industries had the highest levels of engagement.
Personally. People want a good work-life balance. You don’t need a study – though there are many – to tell you that the better work-life balance the better the employee. In fact, people care so much about this balance that they would be willing to give up an extra $10,000 in pay per year, according to a Joblist survey. Remote work lends itself to a better work-life balance, and that trickles down to better employee satisfaction and performance and reduced costs for the company.
How Do You Make Remote Work Arrangement Work for Your Company?
Remote work is great, but it can work against you if the legal structure isn’t set up right from the start. Here are two things you must have in place: a policy and tools to carry out remote work.
An Airtight Remote Work Policy
You must have an airtight remote work policy. Employees working offsite need to be kept on track and a solid and well-communicated policy can help in the endeavor. But there are also legal reasons for having an airtight policy, like taking into consideration:
FLSA violations with particular concern about non-salaried persons and the number of hours they actually work, including overtime pay – work hours and other similar information must be clearly outlined in the policy;
Discrimination issues, i.e., if at-home workers (e.g., mothers or pregnant women) are not offered the same support, protection, etc. that employees are offered in the office, then there could be a discrimination problem, and so these issues must be addressed in the policy;
Disability issues, i.e., if disabled employees are not offered accommodations for the disability (e.g., a deaf person may need specific software to communicate virtually) then you may have a legal matter on your hands, so this must be addressed in the policy;
health and safety, i.e., you are still responsible for your employees’ health and safety even if they are not working on-site, and so a policy should outline what a suitable environment is for remote work;
Worksite closures, e.g., if you have an on-site location and it is closed for some reason but remote workers continue to work, they need to be compensated – employees must know what the policy is when/if an onsite location is closed;
Data security must be considered and comprehensively addressed – whether it is onsite or online, data security is always a concern, but working from home exacerbates this problem, so a policy must be in place and include what can be done (e.g., working in public spaces where security dangers are higher) and can’t be done, etc.
Tools to Facilitate Remote Work
You must provide the right tools so that employees can conduct their work effectively, remotely. This can include things like providing company computers to software needed to perform the functions of the job and to communicate with other employees and the employer. Specifically, you may need software to:
keep your company, company data, and employees secure, so you may need to incorporate endpoint security software;
hold meetings, so you will need video conferencing software like Zoom, which has seen its profits go through the roof during the Covid-19 pandemic;
help employees collaborate with each other, so you may need software that makes it easy to communicate throughout the day;
help employees stay focused by offering task management software;
track work hours especially for hourly employees to make sure you comply with the law and keep accurate financial accounts.
As you see, remote work – whether it’s during the time of the coronavirus, which will be with us for some time, or not – can benefit a company. If you want to make sure you have the right policies and tools in place, contact an experienced business attorney in the Los Angeles and Orange County area today.