With super storms crashing through the region, hurricane season just behind us, and winter looming ahead, it occurred to me how much productivity an organization could gain if their staff worked from home. What if employees were already telecommuting when a physical office closed due to snow or power outage? What if the groundwork was laid so that, in case of emergency, an employee could telecommute from any location? If this were the case, work could continue despite issues that may be location-specific.
How can an organization legally, and with an eye toward best practices, implement a work-from-home policy? The Standards for Excellence program has an answer. From A Charitable Nonprofit’s Guide to Telecommuting, which was rolled out in September 2012:
According to the Telework Research Network (TRN), an independent research and advisory firm specializing in teleworking, almost 65% of nonprofit organizations in the United States offer a telecommute arrangement for at least one day per week and about 45% offer full-time telecommute opportunities.… A study conducted by the TRN illustrates that between 2005 and 2009, the population of telecommuters who work at home grew more than 70% in the nonprofit sector alone.
There are four dimensions to [the] definition [of telecommuting]:
- Work location—any location outside of the central workplace used for working;
- Usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)—the use of technical assistance for telecommuting;
- Time Distribution—the number of working hours or days spent at the central workplaces and/or at the telecommute locations; and
- Contractual Relationship between employer and employee—the employment status of the employee (e.g., contractual, part-time, or full-time). Some employees are paid on a contractual basis (i.e., compensated based on the assignment or project rather than on an hourly wage or salary).
The Guide also addresses telecommuting benefits, concerns, and drawbacks, potential criteria for eligibility, health and safety requirements, and legal implications including laws, tax considerations, and employee overtime. As exhibits to the Guide, a sample policy, contract, worksheets, and a home office checklist are provided.
Whether it’s a time or money saver (or both!), a productivity aid during office closures, or an employee benefit, telecommuting is something many nonprofits should at least consider.