What It Is
Off-site workers can be a valuable addition to many industries, especially in places where resources are limited. Off-site employees are often hired as independent contractors, although many small businesses may choose to hire full-time employees and allow them to telecommute.
Why It Matters
Working off-site reduces or eliminates an employee’s commute. This benefits the employee and the organization because long commutes can
- Contribute to stress-related health issues
- Increase absenteeism or tardiness
- Decrease productivity and performance
Other benefits of off-site work include
- Lower facility costs: In small cities, an employee’s office space costs his/her employer up to $10,000 a year. Employers in metropolitan areas pay twice that. Moving employees out of headquarters and into remote or home offices can save a company money.
- Flexibility: Working off-site can move employees closet to customers, as well as eliminate the need to relocate key employees in response to organizational changes.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires non-exempt employees to be paid overtime for any hours they work over 40 in a workweek, regardless of whether they work at the office or at home. Your managers can avoid expensive litigation by outlining the exact duties and hours of your remote workforce.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have any regulations governing telework in home offices. The agency issued a directive in February 2000 stating that it won’t conduct inspections of employees’ home offices unless it receives a complaint, and doesn’t expect employers to inspect their employees’ home offices.
Communication with Off-site Workers
Communication and consistency are important in managing off-site workers. Here are some easy steps for effective management of off-site workers:
- Make communication easy by allowing each of your workers to set up an individual email account. Then create and publish the addresses in a roster on your intranet.
- Publish a weekly e-newsletter for employees to summarize the key events of the past week, and highlight any issues that need to be addressed.
- Create a system to link on and off-site workers. Not every off-site worker will be available on a standard 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule; set up an online platform for meetings and conferences that are scheduled at least 24 hours in advance.
- Pay workers on a project-basis rather than an hourly-basis to encourage telecommuters to maximize their time.
- Recognize excellent performance with a hand-written thank you note or an acknowledgement in the weekly newsletter to remind off-site workers that their work is appreciated and noticed.
In 2002, the American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care published “When the Workplace is in Many Places: the Extent and Nature of Off-site Work Today” to help the corporate community at large effectively manage off-site workers and a dispersed workforce. Click here for an abstract.
The following companies continue to lead the pack with their flexible work and telecommuting benefits:
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- Goldman Sachs
- Principal Financial Group
- S.C. Johnson & Son
For some of these companies, flexible work schedules and options are not a new idea. For example, Booz Allen Hamilton has been offering flexible schedules since 2005, and Google’s quality of life benefits have been a mainstay since its inception.
A Career Builder survey titled “2009 Job Forecast,” found that 28% of employers anticipate hiring freelancers or contractors in 2009. In addition, almost one-third (31%) of employers plan to provide more flexible work arrangements in 2009. These arrangements include:
- Alternate schedules: Come in early and leave early or come in later and leave later (70%)
- Telecommuting options: (48%)
- Compressed workweeks: Work the same hours but in fewer days (40%)
- Summer hours: (19%)
- Job sharing: (13%)
- Sabbaticals: (7%)
Glossary of Related Terms
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): A federal law that guarantees a worker’s right to be paid fairly. The FLSA defines the 40-hour workweek, sets the federal minimum wage, states requirements for overtime, and places restrictions on child labor.
Independent Contractor: A person or business that performs services for another person under an expressed or implied agreement. A person who engages an independent contractor is not liable to others for the acts or omissions of the independent contractor.
Telecommuting: A work arrangement in which an employee regularly works at an alternate work site such as the employee’s home, a telecommuting center, or other alternate work site. A telecommuting alternate work site is any facility in which the employee works that saves him/her a lengthy commute.
Johnson, Joanna Till, Remote Workers – the Real Costs and Benefits, Nemertes Research. Retrieved from:http://www.techworld.com/mobility/features/index.cfm?featureid=1087