How to establish remote work rules for your hourly employees.

PositionNuts & Bolts

Telework used to be reserved largely for professionals and highly skilled workers. These workers didn't need strict supervision and the majority of their work could be performed from anywhere at any time.

Enter COVID-19. Suddenly, more jobs had to be performed from home, including hourly jobs. Now, as the pandemic subsides, many employers are opting for some amount of continued telework, even for hourly workers. Some tips on dealing with remote hourly staff:

Time tracking and supervision

The Fair Labor Standards Act says hourly employees must be paid for all time spent working. The FLSA requires employers to keep careful records to assure workers are paid for all work. When employees are in an office, that's relatively easy. Hourly workers clock in and clock out.

But when those same hourly workers telecommute, tracking time becomes more difficult. What if the employee steps away from his desk to do laundry? Will you pay for such personal time when it's longer than the brief 10-15 minute paid breaks you allow? That can add up.

Conversely, what happens if your hourly teleworker does work after she's signed off for the day? That counts as paid time under the FLSA, but your records won't capture it. An employee could sue over this unpaid time, and you'd be hard-pressed to defend. (There is no permanent exception for hourly teleworkers even though DOL was lenient early on.)

The hybrid work model

In the post-pandemic era, more employers are looking to shift to a hybrid work model--splitting time between remote and in-person work. For hourly teleworkers, this may be the best plan. Advantages include cost savings, more supervision than pure telework and an opportunity to compare productivity in two settings.

It's important to make certain that you're tracking time at home and at the office. The DOL says you must pay for work that you knew or should know employees are working. The DOL also says employers should use reasonable time-reporting procedures.

Compare time records for work performed in the office and at home to see whether you're capturing all time worked. The office time gives you a barometer of how long tasks should take. If tasks are taking longer at home, the employer can inquire as to why.

Comparing production at home and at the office may be a guide for adjusting employee schedules to achieve maximum efficiency.

Setting a hybrid policy

If you'll be creating a hybrid system, don't assume workers will know your rules. Employers should...

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