Work-from-Home Business Protection Checklist – It's Time to Update Your Policies - Hackstaff, Snow, Atkinson & Griess, LLC

Work-from-Home Business Protection Checklist – It’s Time to Update Your Policies

Work From Home-Image of Home Office The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Americans conduct nearly every aspect of their lives, including where they work. Almost twice as many employees are working from their homes as at the workplace. According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, the U.S. has morphed into a work-from-home economy. Bloom recently conducted several national surveys, which revealed that 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time 

Build a Checklist for Work-from-Home Business Protection 

While working from home has many benefits, it also creates questions and some potential legal gaps. As with many other business landscape changes, companies must protect themselves against any work from home ethical or business litigation that could arise. If you have employees that work from home, whether it be short-term or for the foreseeable future, you need to build a checklist to address the specific issues that arise from work-from-home situations.  

Monitoring of Productivity and Communications  

Of course, you’ll want to know that your employees are still productive while working at home. For many employers, this will involve monitoring their communications. However, before taking this step, ensure that monitoring communication aligns with any existing company policies.  

Generally, employers can monitor work email systems under two conditions: 

  • Employees must not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using company email systems; and 
  • The company has a valid business purpose for monitoring the systems. 

With a comprehensive policy about monitoring productivity and communication within company systems, rest assured that you are protecting your business from future legal problems. You also create a clear understanding of expectations for everyone. 

Timekeeping for Non-Exempt Employees 

You can require both exempt and non-exempt employees to keep track of their working time. (Exempt employees are generally thought of as salaried, and nonexempt as hourly.) However, you must require non-exempt employees to do so. They must accurately record all remote work hours so that they can receive accurate pay. Responding to emails and phone calls should be included in their hours, even if they aren’t doing so during regular business hours. They should get paid no differently than if they were performing work at the office, including the payment of overtime as necessary. 

For some businesses, timekeeping programs may not be accessible from outside their physical location. In this case, work-from-home employees can self-report their hours using another method, such as an Excel spreadsheet. Clear communication about how you want your employees to track their time is crucial. Their time needs to be documented in your timekeeping system on a routine basis. You can allow employees to create their own timekeeping spreadsheet, or create one to streamline the process with everyone using the same document. This can reduce confusion and time spent documenting and tracking hours. 

Infrastructure and Expense Reimbursement Policies 

If you want your employees to work from home or allow them to do so, you need to do everything you can to provide them with the necessary resources. Be prepared to provide them with equipment such as computers and telephones. However, you’ll want to be sure you have a clear policy about checking equipment out and returning it.  

If loaning equipment isn’t possible, assess what employee-owned equipment can be used instead. Then you will need to determine if you will provide reimbursement for using their personal equipment for business purposes. If you will reimburse, determine how you will calculate it and how much you want to pay. By proactively creating a policy to address this issue, you will save time down the road. 

Sick Pay Policies 

If you haven’t recently updated your sick pay or paid-time-off policies, now is the time. Ensure compliance with your state and local laws. Companies are often legally obligated to provide a certain amount of sick leave or in certain situations (like a COVID infection). When employees work from home, these laws still apply. If an issue arises, it’s much better to know you are complying with the law than scrambling to find out if you are.  

Insurance Coverage  

Another significant issue you must address is insurance coverage for employees who work from home. Reach out to your workers’ compensation and general liability insurance carriers or brokers. Find out what coverages still apply when an employee works from home. You want to confirm that both policies cover work-from-home scenarios for all employees. 

Other Policy Updates 

In addition to work-from-home policies, there are other policies that businesses need to address for 2021. You can read more about them in our “Policy Updates Every Colorado Business Owner Should Include in Their Employee Handbook for 2021” blog. 

Enlist an Experienced Legal Team 

You went into business to focus on your industry, not on the business legalities. When creating and enforcing any policy, it’s imperative that you have an experienced legal team on your side. They know what issues you should address regarding employees working from home and the best ways to manage them.  

Our knowledgeable attorneys at Hackstaff, Snow, Atkinson & Griess, LLC can help update your operating policies to ensure you are covered in all necessary work-from-home scenarios specific to your business. There isn’t a cookie-cutter work from home policy that applies to each company. Our attorneys take the time to understand your business to create policies that work for you.  

We handle the legalities while you focus on successfully running your business. Call us today at (303) 534-4317 to learn more about our services.