Working From Home Should Be All Business

Remote work and telecommuting is very appealing, and can be considered a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here are some helpful guidelines.

Telecommuting and working from home can be a great way to attract and keep highly valuable employees, as well as offer an appropriate accommodation for an employee with a disability. Companies that allow remote or telecommuting should have clearly written, reasonable policies about what is expected. This post covers how employees should treat employer equipment and the remote workspace.

An employer may provide the remote working employee a computer, printer, phone, desk and other office equipment. Other employees may use their own computers, and log into a company network. If an employer is supplying the equipment, employees must take care to use that computer and printer only for company work. Do not use it to store recipes, family photos, or personal documents. Treat the equipment as if you were in the office. An employer has the right to inspect any equipment it owns, no matter where it is used, and can ask for it to be returned at any time. Inspections can now be conducted remotely without the employee necessarily knowing it is occurring.

Some employers will want to inspect an employee’s home office. Is it safe? Are any hazards present in need of address? Is the equipment set up in an ergonomic fashion, to avoid repetitive strain injuries from too much keyboarding? Such an injury is likely covered under worker’s compensation, even at a home office setup. Likewise, if an employee falls while in the home office, it is may be considered an injury covered by worker’s compensation. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for an employer to ask to see the remote workspace.

In all cases, an employee working remotely should conduct themselves as if they were in an office environment. Keep regular hours, answer emails and calls in a timely manner, and limit the amount of time spent on personal tasks, just as you would if your co-workers were in the next room. At the same time, do not use the convenience of a home office to work 12 hours a day.

Remember, working remotely is not a right. It is a privilege. While some employees who work with highly sensitive data may not be able to work from home, the trend toward allowing remote work is a healthy one, if handled correctly.