- A telecommuting agreement should be voluntary. No employee should be required to telecommute.
The arrangement must be in the best interests of the university. It should benefit--or at least not cause significant problems--for the department as well as the employee. In evaluating benefits to the department, these are some factors to consider:
Does the nature of the work lend itself to telecommuting?
Jobs that entail working alone or working with equipment which can be kept at the alternate work site are often suitable for telecommuting. Examples: writer, editor, analyst, word processor, programmer.
Jobs that require physical presence to perform effectively are normally not suitable for telecommuting. Examples: receptionist, student advisor, food service worker, child care worker, custodian, maintenance worker.
What potential costs and savings are expected?
Space is often saved. However, juggling shared space among several part-timers may be difficult, especially if there is much turnover.
Equipment costs may be saved at the office (as when existing equipment is freed up for use by others). However, costs may be incurred at the alternate work site, depending on the nature of the agreement. For example, the department may need to buy, or support the costs of maintaining, a computer, modem, fax, or phone lines.
Staffing costs may be saved if the arrangement helps the department to recruit or retain a valued employee, or if the employee becomes more productive as a result of the new work arrangement. (Employees often produce more if they are freed from constant interruptions.) On the other hand, some work requires constant interaction with coworkers. In addition, telecommuting by one employee may affect the workload or the productivity of others.
Is the employee a good candidate for telecommuting?
Telecommuting during the probationary period is not usually a good idea, because of the need to clarify job responsibilities, establish relationships with co-workers and clients, and assess suitability for continued employment.
Employees who have performance problems, or who require close supervision, are not good candidates for telecommuting.
Some employees are not comfortable with physical isolation from other employees, or do not work well independently, or cannot create a home work space that is safe (for them and for university equipment and files) and is free from distractions.
Sometimes employees who telecommute feel that they are "out of the loop" and are overlooked when it comes to various kinds of workplace opportunities. (For this reason, and others, telecommuting should not normally be done more than two or three days a week.)
- Does the nature of the work lend itself to telecommuting?
- The focus in telecommuting arrangements must be on results. The supervisor should communicate in advance what assignments or tasks are appropriate to be performed at the telecommuting site, and what assessment techniques will be used to measure success in meeting performance standards.
The agreement should be as specific as possible. It should include:
- Days and hours the employee is expected to be working in the department
- Hours the employee is expected to be working and reachable at the telecommuting site
- Methods of contact (such as dedicated phone line, voice mail, modem, fax, beeper, etc.)
- Times and frequency of contact (in both directions)
- Who owns and maintains required equipment and supplies
- Who pays for on-going expenses, such as phone lines
- A statement that the employee agrees to maintain a safe work environment, and that the employee agrees to hold the university harmless for injury to others at the telecommuting location
- A statement that the employee agrees to provide a secure location for university-owned equipment and materials, and will not use, or allow others to use, such equipment for purposes other than university business; and that the university is entitled to reasonable access to its equipment and materials
- A statement that management retains the right to modify the agreement on a temporary basis as a result of business necessity (for example, the employee may be required to come to campus on a particular day), or as a result of an employee request supported by the supervisor
- A statement that the arrangement is voluntary, and may be terminated at any time by either party, with specified notice
- The agreement should be in writing and should be signed and dated by the employee, the supervisor, and the department head or designee. A copy should be given to the employee; the original should be kept in the employee's file.
- Questions should be directed to your Employee Relations Consultant in Human Resources, the Office of Risk Management, or University Health Services, as appropriate.