Creating Telecommuting Policies & Practices

Efficient Ways to Implement Work From Home Policies

PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS | Oct 26, 2020

Prepared By: Gregory Whitney

Executive Summary & Analysis (Key Points) 

1. Best Practices & Equipment Set Up

  • Develop a Telecommuting policy/agreement for employees to review, where expectations, procedures, and protocols are outlined. Ensure organizations rules, policies, and procedures are outlined as well. Make clear what liabilities and expenses are covered via workers compensation coverage. ADA and OSHA requirements may also apply.
  • The work space should have adequate lighting and ventilation. It should be expressed in the initial telework agreement that the location for teleworking in a safe environment/space is the employee’s responsibility to locate.
  • The organization may need to help with installation of equipment, depending on the type of equipment required for telecommuting. The organization may need to offer certain equipment to enable adequate telecommuting (this can include reliable internet, adequate telephone access, and computer equipment). Having a strong IT department can lend itself to most installation and troubleshooting being done over the phone/electronically.

2. Employee Availability & Hours

  • Some positions may be eligible for full time telework, while others may be better suited to part time telework. The determination of how often an employee should be physically present in office should be determined by the manager based on the needs of the position and the department.
  • While telecommuting, employees should always be available by phone and email, and should be working for the duration of the agreed upon hours.
  • Those located out of state may be eligible for telecommuting, depending on the organizations regulations and the requirements of the position. If an employee needs to regularly connect with other team members or be physically present on a regular basis, then being located in a separate time zone or another state may make out of state locations ineligible.

3. Eligibility Determination

  • Ensuring that local government functions can continue to adequately serve the community should be the leading concern when ruling which positions can be telework-eligible.
  • The determination of which positions/employees are eligible and ineligible for telework should be left to department heads and managers, who can properly assess if an employee’s duties can be adequately met while working from home. 
  • Studies have found that many departments lend themselves to telework, including those in the areas of finance, planning & inspections, and IT. Other areas with potential staffing positions that could telework include permitting, housing services, and assessing. Department heads are the most equipped in determining which positions are able to be worked remotely.

Research Findings 

City of Tempe (Population of 192,364) 

Tempe has a fairly lenient telecommuting policy, in that the number of hours worked at home isn’t capped at a specific limit. Scheduling is determined based on the relationship of trust between an employee and the city.

  • “Therefore, there will be no citywide limit on telecommuting schedules in terms of how often or on which days of the week the employee telecommutes.”

How often the employee can and should telework is based on the needs of the department and city, with the department determining which positions can be deemed telework eligible. There is great flexibility when it comes to the form or method of communication between the employee and the office. Presently, the mode of communication is determined by the employee and supervisor (who will also set the schedule). This is not to be confused with equipment that is needed for the employee to adequately fulfill their responsibilities.

Other areas of interest in the Tempe Telework policy:

  • The telecommuter will work at home during the hours agreed on by the telecommuter and his or her supervisor. Changes to this schedule will be reviewed and approved in advance by the telecommuter’s supervisor.
  • The telecommuter will be as accessible as his or her on-site counterparts during agreed on regular business hours, regardless of the work location. Telecommuters must notify his or her office if they leave their telecommuting location.
  • Telecommuters are responsible for protecting city information in their possession, or accessible through the use of equipment in their possession, regardless of the work location. The telecommuter may not take restricted access information, such as 30 payroll records, to an alternative work location without the written consent of his or her supervisor.
  • The city may supply the employee the necessary equipment needed to fulfill the responsibilities for their job, as determined by the department head.

To learn more, please visit: https://www.tempe.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=18869 (Begins on page 28)

Salt Lake City (Population of 200,591)

The telecommuting policy of Salt Lake City is based on whether an employee teleworking would be beneficial to the city and its operations. Approval of teleworking is determined by the supervisor on a case by case basis.

Key points of Salt Lake City’s telework policy:

  • An employee authorized to telecommute must safeguard non-public information. The employee may be held liable for unauthorized use of equipment or information.
  • Personal computer equipment used to telecommute must comply with city security policies. City information stored on personal, electronic equipment is subject to public records requests and department review.
  • Work performed in an alternate work location is considered official city business and the employee is responsible for providing a safe work environment. Departments may establish specific conditions that apply to employees working in alternate locations.

This policy heavily emphasizes internet security, records security, and safe internet practices.

To learn more, please visit: http://www.slcdocs.com/HR/HRWebsite/Policies/3.01.05_Attendance_Work_Hours_and_Telecommuting.pdf

City of Honolulu (Population of 347,397)

The City of Honolulu’s telecommuting policy has been changed drastically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Presently, the following is the over-arching policy, with departments having wide discretion over what constitutes as telework eligible.

  • Department directors have the discretion to modify the existing policies on telecommuting for their departments, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allows for a greater number of employees to telework/be telework eligible.
  • Each department director who authorizes telecommuting must provide the Department of Human Resources with a list of employee’s who have been authorized to telecommute.
  • If employee needs, such as child or elder care, are pressing or urgent due to the ongoing pandemic, then teleworking or leave options become more readily available.

It remains to be seen if these temporary changes become more permanent when the pandemic begins to subside.

To learn more, please visit: https://www.hgea.org/Media/4115/city-mayors-directive-no-20-2.pdf

City of Sacramento (Population of 508,529)

The City of Sacramento Telecommute Program gives eligible employees the opportunity to work in a designated location away from the office. At the discretion of the City, telecommuting is a voluntary work assignment which must have the mutual agreement of both the City and the employee. For a telecommuting assignment to be successful, it must continue to meet the needs of the City and the employee.

  • All telework positions are voluntary and by request of the employee.
  • All telework eligible employees must complete the proper telecommuting and IT training on-site before being granted a telework eligible position.
  • It is stressed that employees cannot engage in activities that wouldn’t be allowed at work.
  • VPN access is required for certain positions, and must be installed and set up prior to an employee commencing telework operations.

Supervisors are encouraged to manage their teams and encourage connectivity. This includes:

  • Utilizing Microsoft Teams, Jabber, or Webex video services to connect regularly with teleworking employees
  • Taking advantage of the above mentioned programs and holding daily or weekly meetings with your team, regardless if employees are teleworking or working in person.

To learn more, please visit: https://www.cityofsacramento.org/HR/Telecommute

City of San Francisco (Population of 883,305)

The goal of San Francisco’s work from home policy is to increase employee satisfaction and productivity, retain and attract top talent, and lower the city’s carbon footprint.

  • Eligibility is based off the department’s assessment of the employees work and work habits. Any employee can approach their manager or department head about the possibility of teleworking, but not all requests are granted.
  • Employees must read through the organizations teleworking policies, complete telework trainings, and set up a schedule and reliable structure of communication between their supervisor and themselves.
  • Supervisors must talk and approve of an individual employee’s request to telework, and has the right to turn down such requests.

Employees who are eligible and begin telecommuting must sign an agreement with their department and the city. Further, they must adequately meet the IT security standards set forth by the city’s IT department.

To learn more, please visit: https://sfdhr.org/telecommute

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