Remote Employees in 2024: Addressing Challenges, Obligations, Best Practices, & Other Considerations

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Discrimination, General Issues, Wage & Hour

Woman as a remote worker with children in the background

Introduction

In part one of this two-part blog, we discussed the rights and protections of remote employees under California law. This second part will cover the unique challenges, obligations, best practices, and other considerations involving remote work.

Addressing Unique Challenges in Remote Work

While remote work offers several benefits, including flexibility, reduced commuting time, and possibly increased productivity, it also involves some unique challenges. Those include:

  • Communication: Effective communication can be more challenging when all or part of a team works remotely. Absent in-person interaction, there is a risk of misinterpretation, lack of clarity, and difficulty in building rapport.
  • Collaboration: Remote work does not lend itself to spontaneous brainstorming sessions or quick discussions. Thus, collaborating on projects can be more difficult.
  • Isolation: The isolation from colleagues that remote workers may feel could lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Consequently, remote workers may face declines in morale, motivation, and mental health.
  • Distractions: Maintaining focus and productivity can be challenging for remote workers. Distractions at home may include household chores, family members (including pets), or noisy environments.
  • Boundary management: Remote work can make it difficult to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. When remote workers struggle to switch off from work, it can lead to burnout and decreased job satisfaction.
  • Technology issues: Technology glitches, such as internet connectivity issues, computer problems, and phone malfunctions can disrupt a remote worker’s productivity. IT support may depend on what is available in the worker’s geographic area.
  • Time zone differences: When team members are located in different time zones, it may complicate scheduling meetings and coordinating work.
  • Performance visibility: Some supervisors may find it more difficult to assess the performance of remote employees compared to those working in a traditional, in-person office setting.
  • Onboarding and training: Employers may need to make extra effort to integrate and support remote workers who did not previously work for their employer in person.
  • Security concerns: Situations where remote workers use personal devices or unsecured networks may pose security risks, such as data breaches or unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Dealing with these challenges requires proactive communication, robust remote work policies, investment in appropriate technology and infrastructure, and a supportive organizational culture that prioritizes the well-being and productivity of remote employees.

    Seek Legal Action

    Legal counsel can help you understand your rights, available options, and advise you on gathering the necessary documents and witnesses to support your claim.

    Since 2001, the attorneys from Rothschild & Alwill, APC have dedicated themselves to workers needing legal assistance. Our experienced labor and employment lawyers can advise you on any potential legal claims. You deserve sound judgment, hard work, skilled representation, and to be treated with dignity during every step of the process.

    Email us or call or office in our Central Valley office in Bakersfield at (661-369-8510) or in Santa Barbara at (805-845-1190) to schedule an initial confidential consultation at no charge. Se habla Español.

    CONTACT US TODAY TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE CONSULTATION

    Ways for Employees to Advocate for Their Rights

     

    Unfortunately, working from home has allowed some employers to take advantage of their employees. In addition to understanding their rights, recordkeeping is vital for remote workers to support any legal claims or other concerns that may arise. Examples of important records include time sheets/cards, paychecks/stubs, work schedules, emails, voice mails, phone calls, text messages, and any other documents. Remote workers should also keep all job performance and productivity records. If an employer does not engage in, or communicate, any of the best employer practices described below, a remote worker needs to request that the employer do so.

    Telecommuters must also keep in mind the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. To that end, remote workers should establish and maintain boundaries between work and personal life, for instance, setting designated work hours and taking regular breaks.

    Best Practices for Employers

    Below, we share some best practices to address the considerations described above and in part one of this blog.

    Adapting existing policies to include remote work: Employers should review and update their policies to address specific challenges and considerations related to remote work.

    Developing, adopting, revising, and consistently applying policies specifically regarding remote work. Such policies may include defining eligibility criteria for remote work. Employers should also establish clear expectations, including providing remote workers with an outline of their job duties and performance criteria. This document may include key information such as how to log in and out of work, work hours, check-in procedures, required tasks, data security, availability, reimbursement policies and procedures, communication protocols, productivity expectations, and deadlines. These policies may prohibit employees from working remotely from locations that do not have prior management approval. Furthermore, consistently enforced, uniform policies may help avoid discrimination issues.

    Keep in mind that employers may need to revise their remote work policies to accommodate changing circumstances, technological advancements, and feedback from remote employees, coworkers, and customers/clients.

    Providing resources and support. Employer resources and support to promote the safety and well-being of remote workers may include access to counseling services, legal assistance, and accommodations for disabilities and other challenges.

    Communication and training. Similar to distributing the required workers’ rights postings, employers should communicate their anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies to remote workers and provide training on these policies regularly. Moreover, employers should proactively monitor remote work environments, including communications tools, for indications of harassment or discrimination and take prompt and appropriate action to address any complaints or concerns that arise.

    Guidance on physical set up of home workspace. Employer guidance on setting up a suitable home workspace, including ergonomic considerations, equipment requirements, and suggestions for minimizing distractions may help improve productivity and employee well-being.

    Monitoring and enforcement: Employers should actively monitor remote work environments for signs of harassment or discrimination and take prompt and appropriate action to address any complaints or concerns that arise. This may involve conducting investigations, taking disciplinary action against offenders, and providing support to victims.

    Promoting a respectful work culture: Employers should foster a culture of respect and inclusivity in the workplace, whether in-person or remote.

    Provide regular review and feedback. Regularly review and update telecommuting policies based on feedback from employees, managers, and stakeholders, and ensure that they continue to support the organization’s objectives and meet the needs of remote workers.

    Responsibilities of Telecommuting Employees

    In part one of this blog, we detailed the rights of remote workers, noting that applicable wage and hour and anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws apply equally to telecommuters. For employees, remote work also comes with applicable responsibilities. Those include:

    • productivity;
    • time management;
    • open, timely, and effective communication, including communicating regularly with their supervisors and colleagues to provide progress updates and seek assistance or clarification when needed,
    • data security, including safeguarding information and equipment; and
    • adhering to their employers’ policies and procedures, particularly regarding discrimination, harassment, and security.

    Conclusion

    The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically altered the way that businesses around the world operate. Among these changes was a substantial increase in telecommuting. While the number of remote workers has decreased following the worst of the pandemic, those numbers are still significantly higher than they were before the pandemic. Thus, remote work arrangements are not going away anytime soon. Indeed, as technology advances, even more jobs may be a good fit for telecommuting.

    Each remote work arrangement contains unique challenges and obligations on the part of both employers and employees. Do not navigate these challenges and obligations alone. Schedule a consultation with the experienced employment attorneys at Rothschild & Alwill, APC. They can advise you on how to make the best of telecommuting arrangements. Email us or call our office in our Central Valley office in Bakersfield at (661-369-8510) or in Santa Barbara at (805-845-1190) to schedule an initial confidential consultation at no charge. Se habla Español.