I was surprised to read this analysis of a couple of studies of trends in telecommuting. Most telecommuters are 40 year men. Huh. That kind of belies those stereotypes of mommies putting in laundry and sitting there computing with babies on their laps. I hate those stereotypes -- maybe I'm a bad mom but if my children are in my office for too long I start feeling like my head is going to explode. And I have exemplary children, behavior-wise. So.
Otherwise, this article points out all the things that cause HR people to wring their hands when people telecommute. What if I slip on a grape in my own kitchen while on the clock? What if my home office consists of me perching on top of an extension ladder with my laptop actually on my lap, leading to a repetitive stress injury and weird marks on my behind? Whose time is it when I travel into the Real Office?
On all of these questions I don't have good answers. But here are my tendencies (bearing in mind that I'm not a lawyer, nor an HR person, and I really don't know much at all, actually)
- I have homeowners insurance, and it covers me for stuff that happens in my house. So if I slip on a grape in the kitchen, it's my problem. Likewise if someone steals all my work gear out of my home office, that's a claim on my homeowners' insurance.
- I pay for my own high speed internet. All of it. Because I'd pay for it anyway, and I'm not about nickel-and-diming my poor employer to death. Seriously, would you not have the high speed interwebs coming into your house but for that pesky telecommuting gig? Really? Really. Dial-up it is then, kids. Have fun on the intertubes.
- I am an exempt employee so I travel on my own time. It would be different if I traveled all the time and that was a key component of my work. But I figure it all comes out in the wash. This ties into the fact that my manager treats me with respect as concerns my time management and tends to not wig out about the little bits here and there. As long as I'm gittin-r-done, it's all cool. So I give that right back. Also, I don't get reimbursed for the food I eat while I'm there, or for the gas I use. I am an employee, just like everyone else. Nobody is paying for my colleagues' breakfsts, lunches, dinners, brunches, snacks, second breakfasts, teatimes, or gas to and from work, and so I don't expect that either.
- If I were non-exempt, I would expect to be paid for the time I was logged in doing productive work, and I would expect to have my work logged or monitored to assure that I was processing claims or transcribing or whatever it is during the times I was scheduled to work. I would also expect the same logging or monitoring to go on with all employees doing my kind of work in whatever setting -- after all unless you're really going bananas with the firewall, espn.com works just as well on a computer sitting in a cubicle as it does on one sitting in my spare bedroom. And even the most deranged micro-manager can't be lurking over the shoulder of all his employees all at once.
So that's the Stella position on things. If you don't have a written telecommuting policy even for ad hoc once in a while telecommuters that addresses things like this, you should probably write up guidelines that give you some way of keeping the absolute deadwood from going home to watch Judge Judy all day and not work. But other than that, you might should trust your employees a little bit too.