When Should You Allow Employees to Work Remotely?

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A client called recently and asked if he had to allow one of his employees to work remotely. I must admit that I chuckled to myself when he told me it was the company receptionist who wanted to work from home. But after talking with my client for a few minutes, I realized that the question of who should be allowed to work remotely isn’t always an easy or obvious decision.

Who decides?

First and foremost, it is the employer’s decision where an employee may perform their job. But if an employer is willing to consider a remote work agreement, there are a few basic questions the employer should consider:

  • What is the purpose/role of the job in question?
  • What tools/resources does the employee need to perform the job?
  • What type of interaction with others does the job require?
  • What interaction do our customers/clients expect from the employee?

Making it Work

When discussing the request with my client, he said he could set-up a video monitor in the reception area so that customers could be remotely greeted by the receptionist. He also said that he could have customer calls forwarded to the receptionist’s cell phone so that she could answer calls from home. He didn’t think, however, that the receptionist could remotely perform the other duties of her job which included receiving material/equipment shipments, preparing company packages for shipment, distributing mail in the office, etc., and he didn’t have the luxury of assigning these tasks to another employee.

Considering the questions above, my client decided that the company receptionist was expected to work in the office. Another client with the same request from the company receptionist may have decided differently. The point is the decision to allow an employee to work remotely should be made on the specific circumstances and the questions above should be considered when making the decision.

Stephen H. Murphy, SPHR, is the president and founder of Carolina HR. He has been active in Human Resource management and consulting for over thirty years and brings his experience in a wide variety of HR situations to his clients.

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