Teleworking as the 'New Normal' Presents Challenges for Employers.

AuthorMorris, Daniel

As we navigate the COVID 19 pandemic, nearly every employer that is still able to operate is doing so with at least some combination of teleworking. Many employers are operating exclusively through teleworking. While teleworking allows companies to continue to operate, it presents several important employment law and HR considerations.

Usually, teleworking was offered to provide employees with a better worklife balance. Now teleworking is a matter of survival. Careful employers will consider not just what is needed to get through this pandemic, but also whether and how teleworking may assist them --or not--after this pandemic is over.

In normal circumstances, the extent to which teleworking is successful is a combination of the demands of a particular title, the worker's personality, and the unique circumstances of their role within the organization. When it is successful, teleworking is rewarding for the employer and the employee. When it is unsuccessful, it may (or may not be) unrewarding for the employee, but it will certainly be painful for the employer.

Teleworking presents HR and legal issues, including wage-and-hour compliance, compliance with company policies, theft, invasion of privacy, social media, and workplace safety, among others.

Practically, the employer also needs to determine how the employees team is going to communicate with him or her and how the employer is going to track the employee's productivity. Teleworking is far more likely to work when there is a culture of trust within a company.

Advances in technology are largely responsible for teleworking being a solution at all. But for teleworking to be successful, an employer must have the proper technology and have employees that know how to use it. Having advanced videoconferencing technology is provides no utility if your workers do not know how to log on the call. When an employee works from home, an employer sacrifices a lot of control over work systems. An employer needs to make sure its employees' home hardware and networks are compatible. It may have to navigate additional firewalls on the employees home network--or no firewalls at all. Company email systems may be additionally exposed to viruses, spam, and phishing. Having records stored on an employee's personal computer or computer system may present compliance issues. Not having the employees in the office also makes it far easier for them not to comply with company policies, such as EEO, creating a risk for...

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