Employer Frequently Asked Questions

Should teleworkers be reimbursed for use of their own office equipment?

Equipment issues are specific to each situation. If a teleworker has agreed to use his/her own equipment for work, the details of equipment use must be worked out before a problem arises. It is uncommon for companies to “reimburse” an employee for equipment use, as work versus personal use is difficult to measure. However, many companies do agree to provide maintenance, back-up equipment and office supplies to teleworkers. Back up equipment is important, especially for employees who frequently work on deadline.

If an employee lives in one state and teleworks for a company located in another state, which state is designated for tax purposes?

This is a complicated question. The answer varies from state to state. Check to see if there are reciprocity agreements between the two states in which the teleworker lives and works. Also, investigate whether the states have laws regarding employees who seek to move to that state and work in another. To be safe, consult a tax representative or your employer to gain the answer to this question for your specific circumstances.

Why would a company want to start a telework program?

There are two main reasons for a company to offer telework , but they can be combined in one answer: If done correctly, telework can benefit both the employee and the company. In a 2006 national employer telework survey conducted by MITE–Midwest Institute for Telecommuting Education and Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, telework-friendly employer respondents indicated they would consider telework for several reasons, as seen in the table below. The majority of employers (73%) indicated telework helped them respond to specific employee needs. Stress is reduced, work is more enjoyable and easier, and a new sense of loyalty is developed for their jobs. Employees eliminate a daily commute or a frantic rush hour and regain a sense of control to effectively complete projects and balance work and life. Telework also provides nice rewards for employers as well. Employee retention and increased productivity rated second and third, with other respondents identifying cost savings and reduced operations costs. These rationales were not necessarily exclusive of each other. For example, as employers responded to specific employee needs by providing telework options, they also may have been striving to retain that employee.

What do I need in to have “in place” before offering telework?

The majority of telework friendly employers indicated that prerequisites to offer telework to current employees included a completed probationary period, in-office work experience and a core work schedule.

Why doesn’t everyone telework?

Quite simply, telework is not for everyone. Some people need the physical separation between work and home. Others cannot focus with the distractions inherent in working from home. Some employees find it easier to stay on track seated in their cubicle with daily office operations going on all around them. And, some people just don’t do well being alone for an entire day, Part-time telework, or having the flexibility to work at home periodically, often provides a good balance so employees can work without distractions.

Why can’t I just let my employees decide amongst themselves who will telework?

Telework is not for everyone. It is a privilege, not a right – and it should be awarded because of employees’hard work, dedication and success. Thus, teleworker selection may be a formal managerial decision. When the manager goes through a formal selection process, three important things happen. First, the employees who really should be telework are selected. They fit the criteria set forth by the manager, and they are usually the employees who are self-motivated and goal-oriented. Second, a formal selection process shows employees that telework is not a way to “goof off”. And third, by setting employee characteristic criteria and spelling out teleworker expectations, all employees recognize that the manager will look at the criteria before allowing teleworkers the option. Telework may often occur occasionally and this is not unusual in today’s work world. In order to meet deadlines and better meet customer needs, it may be a temporary arrangement or used in emergency situations.

As a manager, is it practical for me to telework?

Absolutely. In fact, it is often more practical for managers to telecommute, and they become better managers because of it. The basic skills needed to successfully manage employees are communication, leadership, organizational skills and vision. As a teleworking manager, you must iron out any communication difficulties, be available when you say you will be available, and maintain consistent contact with employees. It will be important to have the faith and trust of the employees who work for you. If you return phone calls and e-mails promptly, answer employee questions satisfactorily, complete your tasks on time with quality, and generally lead by example, the telework arrangement should work out. The main part of being a manager is being able to organize both employees and resources effectively. As a manager who teleworks, this is no different, and is in fact more important. You need to make sure your employees are being used to the best of their abilities. You have to be confident that employees can complete their tasks without your direct supervision and have faith in the instructions you, as their manager, give them. In addition, your employees need to be sure that the direction in which you are taking them will benefit them as much as it will benefit you and the company. They need to feel that as a teleworker, you are still the same manager you are when you’re in the office. Managers need to have a track record of good management skills, success in working in unfamiliar situations and strong leadership skills.

Should telework be a mandatory work arrangement for some jobs?

To be safe, the answer would have to be no. The best thing an employer can do is offer telework as a work arrangement. By making it mandatory, the employee may feel restricted; yet sometimes this may e done due to space issues. While there are some jobs that a great majority of the employees who work can telework, it still isn’t for everyone. Some people just need the physical separation of work and home. And, making telework a mandatory part of a job may cause the employee to feel less important or a little unwanted.

What role does telework play in office politics?

Ideally, telework plays a very limited role in office politics. Many people enjoy the separation telework provides between their job and the politics in the office. On the other hand, some people are afraid of becoming the subject of office politics because they telecommute. And, this could honestly pose a problem. As a manager, it is your duty to be the final word in this situation. You need to make it clear that the employees who telecommute are treated the same as other employees, are not afforded any special treatment, and should not be singled out as scapegoats.

Is the workload of the support staff increased because of teleworkers?

The answer varies greatly from one company to another, even one job to the next. It depends mostly on the job tasks that teleworkers cannot do that now must be passed on to the support staff. Depending on the job, this workload is sometimes substantially greater, and other times it is minimal. Resentments can arise because teleworkers may seem to be “exempt” from some work tasks simply because they don’t work in the office anymore. Decide how to streamline, eliminate, or disperse the duties that the teleworker cannot do off-site. This will make the support staff grateful, as well as a little more dedicated to their new duties. Another helpful way to ease the transition is to ensure that support staff feels appreciated. And they are a valued employee.