Many employers have implemented telecommuting policies and agreements to stay current with human resources trends, take advantage of communication technologies, improve retention and recruiting, and reduce overhead.  Often it has worked brilliantly, with some estimates that 10% of the working population work from home at least one day a week.

But employment lawyers see that when telecommuting doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work.  There can be many policy enforcement complications, performance review barriers, and estrangements from normal workplace discipline and personal development.

Given such complications, the bloom may be coming off the rose, a bit.  Yahoo recently made news with its ban on telecommuting.  Best Buy followed by imposing significant restrictions on its flexible work policy.

Perhaps now is a good time for employers to review their telecommuting or alternative work policies or individual agreements.  When doing so, consider the following:

  • Is the policy clear in its requirements and does it reflect current realities?
  • Is the policy applied in a non-discriminatory way?
  • Is the policy consistent with other policies such as timekeeping, work hours, and dependent care policies?
  • Are there sufficient monitoring systems?
  • Do performance reviews address the differences in alternative employment arrangements?
  • Are there confidentiality protections?
  • Are workers’ compensation, Fair Labor Standards Act, and state income tax reporting requirements addressed?
  • What are the conditions for termination of the arrangements?

Takeaways:  This is just a beginning checklist — but with the trend perhaps trending down, it may be the right time to double-check your policies and individual agreements.  And use your legal counsel in the process (even if he or she is working from home!).