Would you be surprised to learn that the majority of the U.S. workforce will be working remotely within the next decade? This may sound like a far-off statistic, but in fact, according to a study from Global Workplace Analytics, regular remote work among the non-self-employed population has grown by 140 percent since 2005.
Additionally, a study from Gallup shows that telecommuting is one of the most desirable perks a company can offer and that remote workers are also the most engaged among all those surveyed across all fields of employment.
It's easy to envision the many benefits that accrue to employees who work remotely, but employers have much to gain from offering this type of arrangement as well: Not only are workers more satisfied and more engaged, they're also more productive.
That's just the beginning of how remote work can pay off for employers - companies also decrease attrition; save money on things like real estate, utilities and the like; and even reduce the spread of contagious illnesses like the flu during those times of the year when everyone is coming down with something.
One report found that employers save roughly $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year - how's that for an impressive bottom line? Of course, it's simply not possible for all companies in all lines of work to offer remote work opportunities, but if it's feasible for you to do so, clearly the upside makes this type of program worthwhile.
However, if you don't get some basic legal and liability issues nailed down properly, a remote work program can turn into a real headache. Here are some pointers on setting up a telecommuting program that is an asset, rather than one that will turn into a liability.
Hiring and interviews
Unconscious bias related to many of the traditional stumbling hot buttons in the hiring process - issues like age, race, disability, and the like - is also a factor when hiring remote workers. Blind hiring processes - those using artificial intelligence, for example - that screen for unconscious bias are an effective tool to screen out these issues whether you're searching for a remote or a traditional worker.
Local, state, national and international employment laws
If you're going to be hiring workers in other parts of the country or other parts of the world, realize that you'll have to comply with the labor laws that govern those jurisdictions. If you'll be hiring foreign employees, you may or may not be required to register in those countries - be sure to find out. Depending on the labor laws of your company's location, you may also be governed by those laws as well.
Similar to the situation with your labor laws, your payroll will have to be compliant with each jurisdiction in which you have employees on a per-employee basis. Make sure that you and your payroll provider are aware of the origin of all your employees so that you together can begin hunting this information down.
This issue is becoming an increasingly important, especially with conversation surrounding the status of H1B visa holders and their spouses, the holders of H4 visas. Regardless, completing form I-9 is mandatory for all U.S. employers; however, federal contractors must use the E-Verify system for their employees, and some states require use of this system as well.
Immigration rules also play a role in the feasibility of accepting electronic signatures from employees on a state-by-state basis, so ensure that you're aware of the rules on both these topics.
Privacy and security
Data security is another critically-important issue to take into consideration. As with your employees who are in the office with you, "your remote employees also have email addresses and passwords, personal identifying information, phone numbers, addresses, proprietary information, financial data, and communication about customers and employees," Natasha Bowman writes in Workplaceless. "Make sure that everyone in your organization-including those who work from home-understand your privacy and security policies [and] make sure there are system[s] in place for making sure those policies are enforced by everyone in the organization."
Health and safety
Out of sight does not mean out of mind when it comes to health and safety regulations. Employers remain responsible for complying with all relevant health and safety legislation even whether an employee is working on the other side of the building or on the other side of the world.
Your company must make sure it is mitigating risk; have a system in place for logging and looking into accident, illness, or other issues that occur on the job; and be aware of and enforce any local jurisdictional issues regarding health and safety - mandatory breaks, for example.
Certainly, hiring remote workers requires a bit of extra care and attention, but when you consider the benefits that can accrue to your team - and to your company's bottom line - in return, taking the step to implement a telecommuting program is unquestionably a smart move.
At the end of the day, a successful remote working program is about far more than just these basics, though: It's about your company's culture, its DNA. Combine that culture with an engaged and productive worker and add in some cost savings, and remote work is not only the wave of the future, it's a real winner.