Whether your business already has employees, or you are just starting to hire employees, many small business owners are concerned about having employees who work-from-home. With an increase in people working at home, it’s understandable that business owners are uncertain as to how this arrangement works legally in Florida.
We all realize that working from home is considerably different than working in an office. There are differences in the environment, interactions with people, distractions, accountability, communication, and so much more. There needs to be a different kind of infrastructure put in place for work-from-home employees.
For business owners who already have employees and are transitioning them to work-from-home, it can seem like there are so many things to know and do to make it all work smoothly. For business owners who are wanting to hire new employees to work-from-home right off the bat, it can seem really difficult to acclimate a new person into the business without them being face-to-face with you.
So how does a small business hire or transition employees to work from home status? You want the arrangement to be productive, beneficial and non-stressful. In order to have it operating in a way that you want it to, it’s important to set it up properly from the beginning.
First of all, it is much easier to handle the whole shift to home if you make a list and categorize all the “to-do” and “to-consider” items. This way, it does not seem so overwhelming. To help you out, here are some categories we used when we transitioned our entire team to work-from-home:
1. Physical Set-Up: What does the employee need in their physical environment to do a good job? This could include having a real desk, a comfortable desk chair, filing cabinet, supplies, etc. If the business is going to provide these things, a courier service can be quite helpful for delivering furniture to an employee’s home. If an employee already has what they need at home, it would be good to make sure that they are appropriate and meet safety standards.
2. Technology: How is a computer going to be set up and connected to your business system? What kind of software needs to be on the computer to protect the security of your system? Will the employee need a printer? What about internet connection – is it fast and reliable enough? How accessible will the computer system be to others in the home? Will the employee need a phone line for the business? How will calls be made, answered, and transferred?
3. Accountability: Will you require set working hours? How will the employee check in with you? Do you need to have tight structure or can it be more loose to fit the circumstances? How will distractions at home be minimized? How does the employee ask you questions when they need help? Will you require reports, set deadlines, and monitor progress? How will team meetings be conducted?
4. Liability: Do you have workers compensation insurance that will cover your employees if they get injured “on the job” while at home. Do you need a particular type of auto insurance that would cover an employee driving their own car for business purposes during their work hours? Do you have rules in place for an employee working over-time? Who is responsible for local ordinances and zoning for home offices?
Almost all the issues with work-from-home employees fall into one of the above four categories. Once you have determined how your particular business handles the arrangement, the next step is to create policies for your work-from-home employees. This is the important piece of business infrastructure that can significantly impact your liability.
If a business does not have written policies in place, it is critical that they are created when you have work-from-home employees. The policies don’t have to be extensive for small businesses, but they are an important part of protecting the business from this type of employment liability.
For those small business owners who are contemplating a work-from-home arrangement with employees, this all may sound overwhelming and scary. It doesn’t have to be. There is a lot to consider when setting it up but these are all things that can be handled and accounted for. Work-from-home employee arrangements can help businesses save money on overhead and keep productivity in place.
On last pointer, when it comes time to terminate a work-from-home employee, there can be some serious traps and pitfalls. Most of these can be avoided if you set the employment and policies up correctly from the beginning. Having policies that state what happens when the employment ends can help the process go smoothly and avoid uncertainty.
Our Recommendation = Consider all that is involved in work-from-home employment and put policies in place to protect your small business and make it run efficiently.
ABOUT THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT: The Legal Department is a business law firm focusing on small service professional firms. It’s focus is putting legal infrastructure into small businesses to help grow better and stronger businesses. Part of that legal infrastructure involves worker relationships, whether those are with employees or independent contractors. If you are a small service-based business in Florida and you need help with your legal infrastructure, reach out to us to schedule an initial meeting to see if we can help.