Working from home (aka: “WFH” / “telecommuting” / “working remotely”) has taken on an entirely new meaning in recent weeks with the Coronavirus outbreak forcing people to socially distance themselves from others – including coworkers. For some companies, remote work is regularly part of their day-to-day activities, but for others, it is a relatively new experience.
If having your employees telecommute is uncharted territory, you might have many questions: How do I ensure my employees are staying on task? What kind of availability expectations should I place on my employees? Do I need to shoulder any of their expenses?
A Work From Home Agreement may be appropriate in some circumstances and can help address these concerns and create clarity between you and your remote employees, whether it is a permanent setup or in response to unforeseen circumstances. This is particularly true where there is an existing employment contract with the employee with terms potentially inconsistent with work from home or the work is being performed by a contractor who was formerly on site. Below are four main provisions that every WFH Agreement should include.
The Telecommuting Agreement should specify what days and hours your employees are expected to be available (i.e. M-F, 8 AM – 5 PM), and through what means (i.e. email, phone, text, Skype, Slack, etc.). The Agreement should also include how long it is effective for – two weeks? One month? Indefinitely?
When shifting to a work from home arrangement, many employees can feel pressured to work and be available 24/7. You should curb this pressure by setting clear working hour parameters in the Work From Home Agreement and be understanding when they are not available outside those time frames. That way, there is no question as to when your employees are supposed to be working and available. Additionally, if they know how long the work from home arrangement will last, you minimize the risk of employee’s taking advantage of the situation and working at home for longer than you would like.
When working from home, the standard office desk and chair arrangement may not be feasible for all of your employees. However, your Working From Home Agreement should iterate the expectation that your employees establish an area in their home that is designated for work and free from most distractions.
The Agreement should also ensure that all employees are equipped with all the necessary technology and internet connectivity to get their job done effectively. This may be where you should foot the bill for some costs, for instance, if your employee does not have a laptop or does not have a particular piece of software that they need. Further, if the equipment belongs to the company, the Work From Home Agreement should specify that all equipment shall be returned to the company when the telecommuting period ends.
To ensure that your employees are remaining productive while working from home, it can be wise to include a requirement that employees provide regularly scheduled status updates on what projects they are working on. While some companies regularly utilize software and platforms to manage tasks (such as Slack, Basecamp, or Asana), if these are unavailable to you, requiring your employee to send updates via email can be effective as well. Whatever your preference, lay it out in the Work From Home Agreement so that your employees know when and how to communicate with you about their progress.
A Work From Home Agreement should include reference to any Employment Contract that your employees have entered pursuant to their regular, in-office position. The Agreement should specify that it is in addition to the Employment Contract, and that all terms and conditions of the Employment Contract still apply and ultimately control. Further, it is in the Employment Contract – not the Work from Home Agreement – that provisions related to employee benefits and termination should be included.
While the above four aspects are integral to developing a Work From Home Agreement, it does not necessarily cover everything. There are other considerations that your business may need to be account for, especially if telecommuting is in response to an emergency like Coronavirus. What if your employee is also having to provide childcare while they work from home? What happens if your employee gets sick while telecommuting? What kind of dress code is expected of your employee? Do you want to reserve the right to have your employees come into a physical office from time to time? The circumstances are all unique to your company and how you envision your employees working from home.
If you have found yourself in a situation where your employees are working from home and you want or need to formalize the arrangement, developing a Work From Home Agreement is a smart idea. With the attorneys at Traverse Legal being located across the country, we are intimately familiar with remote work and expertly equipped to draft a Work From Home Agreement for your company. Let us help you tackle telecommuting head on with a contract that fits both your company’s needs and budget.