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Office Risk Insights: Is Teleworking Right for Your Employees?

In an age when more and more positions require duties to be carried out almost exclusively on computers and the internet can instantly connect anyone anywhere, many companies are wrestling with the idea of allowing employees to work from home. While many employees are quick to support the idea, the non-traditional approach of teleworking, also known as remote working, is foreign to some employers, leaving them uneasy about how it will affect their operation.

There is no definitive answer as to whether teleworking will be good or bad for your business. It comes with both pros and cons that can be influenced by a variety of factors such as company environment, type of work and individual employees. Because of all the variables that can affect the success or failure of employees working from home, most situations should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Benefits

If applied in the right situations, teleworking can have a variety of potential benefits for both your company and its employees.

  • Eliminating the Commute: Teleworking turns the potentially large block of time wasted during the commute to and from the office every day into time that employees can be working.
    • The lack of a commute means employers no longer have to deal with tardiness or absences caused by traffic accidents and weather.
    • If employees are using company vehicles, eliminating an unnecessary drive to and from the office every day decreases the chance for accidents.
    • With fewer vehicles on the road each day and fewer accidents on your company’s record, the cost of motor vehicle premiums will fall.
  • Space Saver: If you want to add more personnel but just don’t have room, teleworking can save you from the constraints of your current accommodations without requiring the development of additional office space.
    • Less office space with fewer employees and less expensive equipment means not only lower utility and upkeep costs, but also lower property insurance premiums.
  • Fewer Sick Days: Employees working at home have little direct contact with co-workers, meaning that they will be less likely to catch a cold or flu that may be going around the office.
    • Less exposure to contagious disease helps employees who telework miss fewer days of work due to illness, which means increased productivity for your operation.
    • Even if a work-at-home employee does become ill, they are more likely to remain productive since their illness does not affect their ability to come into the office.
    • Fewer sick employees means lower overall operating costs and higher productivity for your business.
  • Attract and Retain Employees: Studies have shown that a majority of employee favour the option of teleworking.
    • Not only does this increase the morale and job satisfaction of current employees, but it can also be valuable when recruiting new talent.
  • Hiring and retaining the best employees will help you save money on training costs, and more seasoned workers tend to have less injuries, contributing to lower insurance premiums.

Potential Risks

While it can be very beneficial, teleworking has some potential problems that your company should consider before it allows employees to work from home.

  • Health and Safety Duties: Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work for all of their employees. This even applies if the employer works from home.
    • Employers need to assess the potential hazards faced by teleworking and ensure measures are in place to control any risks.
  • Limited Employee Supervision: A top reason employers are leery of allowing employees to work from home is the inability to accurately monitor how time is used during the day.
  • Equipment Costs: There are certain pieces of equipment that an employee will need to work from home, namely a computer and an internet connection. They may also need other devices to help them communicate with their fellow employees.
    • If the employee does not already have these things, the company will need to pay for them. Add these costs to the logistics of maintaining and repairing IT equipment that is away from your primary place of business, and this can become a significant investment for companies considering teleworking.
  • Limited face-to-face time: Employees working from home are not as involved in the culture of your company.
    • Not having an employee physically available for a meeting or discussion can be an added headache for those working in the office.
    • Employees at home may have a tougher time being recognised for promotions or other advancements. This could cause lower morale and problems with employee retention.
  • Security: The basis of teleworking is the use of the internet. When an employee is at the office, his or her work is protected by safety standards that keep your company’s network and data secure.
    • However, an employee working from home may not have the same safety measures in place to protect company information they may be working on.
    • Make sure employees are provided with security software and that you have the proper cover, such as a cyber-liability policy, to protect against a potential data breach.

Stop Problems Before They Start

If you allow employees to telework, make sure you institute an established programme to minimise the risks. Decide on what types of positions in your company will be open to allowing teleworking, and detail what is expected of employees when it comes to productivity and time usage.

Also, ensure you institute security procedures that will keep sensitive company information safe at home offices. Having guidelines in place will help you reap the benefits of teleworking without letting it disrupt your business or lead to increased liabilities and costs.

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The content of this publication is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances or jurisdiction. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice from their own legal counsel. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. © 2010, 2012-2013 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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