Telecommuting or remote (control) workers

June 12th, 2018 by hrsimple

Remote control

With the advances in technology in the last 20 years, the need for some employees to commute to the office daily has dropped drastically. Telecommuting, or working outside the office (usually in the employee’s home), has become a popular arrangement as it offers some clear advantages for employees and employers, including:

  • increased productivity
  • increased job satisfaction
  • reduced absenteeism
  • lower employee turnover
  • savings in expenses such as office rental, utilities, and employee parking
  • improved employee morale
  • reduced employee stress and related medical expenses.

But not all employees and positions translate well to this digital office, and there are many details to be considered when starting a telecommuting arrangement.

What positions are a good fit for telecommuting? 

Many jobs are easily adaptable for telecommuting, for example: journalist, designer, writer, accountant, data entry, programmer, and data analyst. In general jobs that have a clear production schedule are good for telecommuting as the employee knows how productive they need to be. 

A good test is to consider if an employee can close their office door for eight hours and accomplish their job with no face-to-face contact (emailing is allowed), if so that job is adaptable for telecommuting.

On the other hand there are many jobs in which telecommuting would be a bad match. Roles that involve a lot of managing projects and employees, technology assistance, conducting on site meetings, or that require a lot of face to face contact with team members may not fit the requirements for full-time telecommuting. 

What employees make successful telecommuters? 

An employee’s position being well suited for telecommuting does not necessarily mean the employee is. A good candidate for telecommuting: 

  • is interested in telecommuting
  • is self-motivated
  • has received successful performance evaluations
  • can function without direct supervision
  • can work in isolation
  • has good time management skills
  • can provide an appropriate work space at home
  • can stay in contact with supervisors
  • can plan their work according to designated timetables.

In general employees who have proven themselves to be focused, responsive to supervisors, and otherwise responsible should make good telecommuters. 

How should an employer start a telecommuting arrangement?

A good first step is to sit down with the employee and their supervisor to map out how the telecommuting will be handled. A few topics to discuss are: 

  • how files and assignments will be shared
  • how often check-ins are required 
  • what equipment will be needed, what will be supplied by the employer, and how such equipment will be maintained
  • what workload/time table the telecommuter is responsible for
  • a reminder that telecommuting is an extension of the office itself, and the employee needs to follow company policies accordingly. 

The employer should also remember that they are still responsible for the employee during working hours, and should make arrangements to ensure the employee is working in a safe environment (for example, there are no fire hazards or exposed wires, etc.).

After the supervisor and employee have discussed the terms of the arrangement, the employee should sign a telecommuting agreement, confirming they have understood the guidelines clearly. Here is an example of such an agreement. 


Employer/telecommuter written agreement checklist

  • The employee will be covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation coverage when at home, if the employee is injured while performing job duties.

  • The employee is required to hold any client or business meetings at the official work office, and not at home.
  • The employer will not be responsible for the cost of utilities other than those specifically agreed upon such as the cost of additional telephone lines.
  • The employee will obtain a fire and safety inspection of the home worksite before telecommuting begins. (Employee must use a UL approved surge protector, and a grounded outlet for telecommuting equipment.)
  • The employer will provide itemized pieces of equipment and any necessary upgrades to the equipment as determined by the employer.
  • The employee will be responsible for securing, with a lock or other security device, the telecommunications equipment provided by the employer, and will be responsible for any damages to the equipment which are the result of failure to secure. The employee will also be responsible for the safeguarding of records, files, correspondence, and other business papers.
  • The employee will be responsible for regular backup and maintenance of computerized files, unless a network system of routine back-up is provided.
  • The employer has the right to inspect the home worksite, with adequate notice, to ensure that the equipment is being properly maintained. Visits should be scheduled in advance during normal business hours.


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