Technology has made many work schedules more flexible. Employees don’t have to be in the office to get work done and communicate with their co-workers and superiors.
Some businesses have experimented with telecommuting to allow employees with long commutes or other demanding responsibilities to work from home. With this option available, employees began to want to work from home when they had to stay home due to illness or caring for sick children.
It can be a win-win situation for both employer and employee if done correctly. It can also lead to poor work productivity or employees unable to recover from illness because they feel pressured to work from home. With this in mind, here are six tips for employers to deal with this problem effectively.
1. Health comes first
The first thing employers need to remember is that sick days are created so employees can recover. Therefore, any policy affecting sick days must take this into account. If an employer starts to create a culture where an employee knows they still have to be home when sick, the goal of a sick day is not being met. Employers can set themselves up for potential lawsuits. In addition, if employees are not allowed to rest, they will not recover quickly and productivity will slow down considerably.
2. Push for Balance
When employees ask to telecommute when they are sick, strive to strike a balance between letting the employee recover and letting them set sick days aside for more urgent occasions. If workers have a mild cold that sends them home early, continuing to work from home may be a good idea. On the other hand, an employee with a high fever will need time off to recover and may not be able to work.
3. Have a Defined Telecommute Approval Process
To keep things legal and fair, have a set process in place for approving employees to telecommute to save sick days. Employees should contact their direct manager to request entry from home. Managers can then use their best judgment based on the project assigned to the employee and how sick the employee is to provide approval. Everything must be documented via email or other written documents. HR can help manage the process by making recommendations to managers across the board, and managers should notify HR when employees are approved to work from home.
Managers should remember that while some employees will use this system to show their dedication to their job, others may try to use it to go to the beach in the morning and then come to work in the afternoon. Be sure to address any oversight immediately and explain to employees that using the program when they are not actually sick will not be tolerated.
4. Employees Released from Telecommute vs. Non-Exempt Employees
Another legal employer to consider is the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees. Excluded employees must be paid the same amount of pay each week regardless of when and how much they work. This means that if an exempt employee leaves early with the flu, they can’t dock for pay the way a non-exempt employee can. Excluded employees may decide to telecommute to help meet their workload, but employers must consider the impact on quality of work and employee health. Excluded employees may also have a sick day bank they can take out, but even if that bank becomes negative, pay cannot be reduced.
5. Pay for Completed Telecommute Jobs
If an employee does not obtain approval to work from home but is still working from home and working, the company is required to pay the employee for their work. This is called an “allowed or suffered” policy, which basically means that even if the employer does not “allow” the work, the employer still has to pay for the “suffered” work. There are ways for employers to address this problem by having a reprimand policy and informing employees regularly of what is and is not permissible when it comes to clocking.
6. Recognize Dedication
It is important for employers to recognize the dedication of their employees through kindness employee recognition program. This doesn’t mean rewarding everyone who shows up on time, but if an employee is pushing hard to complete an important project even though they are homesick, it’s great to get a thank you. Allowing telecommuting to employees who have worked a certain time at the company is another way to recognize service, as are service awards given out at career milestones.