Telecommuting is a growing trend in the information age. Much has been published touting the benefits of the "virtual office." About 6 percent of the American work force (over 8 million American workers) telecommute to company jobs from their homes on either a part-time or full-time basis, and the number is increasing. By some estimates, a full 30 percent of the work force will be telecommuting by the year 2020.
Telecommuting is defined as work and transportation alternatives that substitute home-to-work commuting with the option of working at home or at satellite work locations for all or part of the employee's assignment. This does not include work at home due to temporary special conditions such as inclement weather, recovery from illness, caring for an ill family member, or caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. Telecommuting is defined as work and transportation alternatives that substitute home-to-work commuting with the option of working at home or at satellite work locations for all or part of the employee's assignment. This does not include work at home due to temporary special conditions such as inclement weather, recovery from illness, caring for an ill family member, or caring for a newborn or newly adopted child. OUS Telecommuting Policy
Telecommuting presents benefits and challenges for both the telecommuter and his or her employer. The employee may be able to increase their productivity, reduce their commuting costs, reduce their stress and find a better balance between work and family life. The challenges they may face include increased isolation from work, reduced visibility from managers, reduced access to support, reduced home living space, and increased at-home costs.
The employer may benefit from telecommuting by increased staff productivity and morale, a reduction in absenteeism and lower overhead or space needs. Because the ability to work at home is viewed by some as a perquisite, providing this option may improve recruitment and retention of valuable employees. However, a telecommuting arrangement may require changes in procedures and management style. There may be increased operating costs, increased legal concerns, increased need for data security, and increased potential for distrust.
How do you know if telecommuting arrangements would work in your situation at the University of Oregon? You should consider the type of work being performed and the characteristics of the person requesting the telecommuting option.
Certain types of jobs are more easily adapted to telecommuting. Examples include accountant, auditor, data entry operator, financial analyst, programmer, systems analyst, researcher, writer, editor. However, many other jobs may be adaptable as well.
Not every employee is well suited for telecommuting. It is recommended that the employee be mature, self-disciplined and capable of working with little on-site supervision. They should have received consistently successful performance evaluations in the recent past and have a history of dependability on the job. They should be well organized with good time management skills. Finally, they should have or be capable of attaining required expertise in the use of computer technology to make telecommuting successful.
Supervisory Decisions: Will Telecommuting Work in your Department?
An employee may come you with a proposal to work at home all of the time or on a part-time schedule with regular hours from their home office. What should you consider in evaluating this proposal? Consider characteristics about the employee as well as the nature of the job responsibilities. Staff in the Office of Human Resources are available to discuss telecommuting options with you. You may want to talk with other managers who supervise telecommuters.
Experience shows that telecommuting arrangements work best with employees who have consistently had high ratings on performance evaluations. Consider the employee's ability to work well independently and to stay focused on job tasks.
Look at the job description of the employee. Are there job responsibilities which seem suitable for an off-campus work site? Generally functions that require little direct customer service are more suitable for telecommuting. It is appropriate to ask the employee who is proposing to telecommute how they will carry out their job responsibilities off-campus. Familiarize yourself with current technology that enable employees to work at home. Staff in the Computing Center and the Telecommunication Offices are available to assist you.
It is recommended that telecommuting agreements be approved on a trial basis with opportunity to evaluate its success. You may want to consider frequent evaluation meetings during the first few weeks of a telecommuting arrangement.
Non-exempt employees (those who are eligible to receive overtime) need to maintain accurate time and attendance records and this requires close communication with his or her supervisor. Many will arrange to start and stop work at the same time each day. Others may chose a flexible work schedule. Overtime hours must be approved in advance by the supervisor.
Classified employees will continue to be covered by their respective collective bargaining agreements. Both supervisors and employees must pay particular attention to contractual requirements such as shift differential and overtime.
Negotiating a Telecommuting Agreement
An employee who is preparing a proposal to telecommute, should consider all aspects of his or her position objectively to identify tasks appropriate or not suitable for telecommunting. It is important to review a list of individuals he or she interacts with both inside and outside of the work unit and list all meetings. Consider who may be positively or negatively impacted by the telecommuting arrangement. Although some telecommuters work primarily at home, most split their time each week between home and campus offices; it may be possible to schedule tasks requiring frequent in-person contact with others during on-campus working hours.
A proposal for telecommuting may include:
" Tasks assigned to a position which are appropriate for telecommuting;
" Benefits for the employee and the department;
" Description of home office set up;
" Supplies and equipment to be provided by the employee;
" Supplies and equipment to be provided by the department;
" Proposed start date and suggested date to review the success of the arrangement.
Written Telecommuting Agreement
The State of Oregon requires all agencies to report to the Department of Administrative Services the number of employees who telecommute and University policy requires that telecommuting employees and their supervisors sign a telecommuting agreement and submit it to the Office of Human Resources. See Appendix A. This document outlines the responsibilities of both the telecommuter and the university. The Telecommuting Agreement is required for employees who, on an ongoing basis, have scheduled working hours at home a significant portion of time. This agreement is not intended for those who take work home in the evenings or weekends or have minimal at home assignments. Telecommuting Agreement Form (PDF)
Setting Up a Home Office
The location of the designated work space is important. Working at home several days a week on a regular basis is totally different from working out of a briefcase on the kitchen table on a temporary basis. Good work is best produced in an efficient and safe work space. The University's liability for job-related injuries continues to exist during approved hours of work since the designated home office is considered an extension of the regular University work site. Please consult the University's Office of Environmental Health & Safety at 346-3192 if you have questions about the ergonomics or general safety of a home office.
Office supplies will be provided by UO but out-of pocket expenses normally will not be reimbursed. The University does not provide office furniture and generally the telecommuter will use their own computer equipment and telephone service. If a department should decide to provide computer equipment for an at-home office, a Property Receipt must be completed and submitted to the Office of Business Affairs. Computers used for UO business must have approved surge protection and virus protection. Use of UO computer modems is limited to 14 hours a week so telecommuters or their home departments may choose to buy modem access via a commercial provider. For more information consult the University or Oregon Telecommunication and Network Services Departments.