Under Proclamation 20-05, employees who work for an essential business may continue to perform their duties at their normal worksite.  Even so, there may be prudent business reasons, or in some cases legal requirements (e.g., with high-risk workers) to have some employees perform their work remotely.   Businesses that have not been deemed essential by the Governor have little choice but to have their employees work remotely (if possible) to keep the business operating.  This is a major change to how businesses have historically managed their employees.  Some employees may have worked remotely for brief periods of time, but it is rare that employees work remotely for such a long period.

Remote working presents various management and legal issues.  Since supervisors cannot observe their workers, other means need to be implemented to ensure that the employees are getting their work done in a timely manner and not using their time at home for other purposes, e.g., childcare.  Daily reporting and meetings are a good way to stay connected and to ensure that projects are completed and deadlines are met.  Another option is to have each remote worker sign a remote working agreement which emphasizes that company policies remain in effect and that any breach of the agreement or failure to timely perform their work can result in the agreement being revoked.  The agreement should 1) require employees to be available by phone, video, or other means during normal working hours; 2) specify the equipment provided by the company to enable the employee to work remotely; and 3) require the employee to maintain confidentiality of all information.  Have the employee advise what steps they have taken at home in order to prevent unauthorized access.  Also, involve IT departments and support staff as necessary to ensure that the system is secure.

Management also needs to be concerned to some extent regarding the workplace used by the remote workers.  A worker who is injured in their remote work space is entitled to file an L&I claim.  Employers should have their employees verify that their workplace is safe and to immediately report any injuries.

Hard-working, nonexempt employees are a blessing to any organization, but there is also the chance that they could work longer hours that ultimately put them over 40 hours a week.  Management needs to implement reporting methods to ensure that any overtime hours are reported so that they can be paid at the appropriate rate.

Employees who may have been on work improvement plans or who had disciplinary issues prior to being assigned to work remotely will require extra attention as those are the employees who are most likely to take advantage of the remote working situation.

In many ways, remote working requires greater—not lesser—supervision.  Management needs to look for ways to stay connected with its employees during these unprecedented times.

If you have questions regarding remote working please contact Richard Davis at Chmelik Sitkin & Davis P.S. at 360.671.1796.