Kansas Employment Law Blog Photo
Get Back to Work: The Telecommuting Debate

Recently, Melissa Mayer reignited the telecommuting debate when an internal Yahoo! memorandum leaked.  Starting in June, Yahoo! employees with remote working arrangements must physically report to company offices.  But, Yahoo! isn’t the only company rolling back the telecommuting red carpet.  Best Buy also announced the end of its ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) program.  Most corporate Best Buy employees will now have to report to the company’s headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota.

Is this the start of a new trend or merely a couple companies changing course? The Wall Street Journal reported that more Americans are working from home than ever before. About 9.4% of U.S. workers worked at home at least one day per week in 2010, compared with 7% in 1997, according to a Census Bureau report. So, what is an employer to do? Before changing your company’s course, here are a few considerations.
Offering telecommuting can help employers attract and retain talent.  Certain segments of the workforce value the flexibility provided by telecommuting and such an arrangement can be a valuable recruiting tool.  Before wooing employees with promises of work-life balance bliss, carefully consider whether you have the tools in place to effectively manage performance of employees who work remotely. Evaluate each job and the employee on an individual basis.  Telecommuting is not the answer for every employee or every employer.
Finally, if telecommuting isn’t working for you, consider the recent moves made by Yahoo! and Best Buy.  If you’re not seeing the productivity or performance, then telecommuting may not be the right choice.  Regardless of what side you take on the broader telecommuting debate, remember your obligations under the ADA. Telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability. 
For more on telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC has a fact sheet on telework issues available here: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/telework.html

Don Berner Image
Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
Boyd Byers Image
Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
Jason Lacey Image
Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
Additional Sources
Subscribe to Kansas Employment Law Letter Image
Subscribe to Kansas Legislative Insights Image