HR[preneur] Episode 11: How to Overcome the Challenges of Managing Remote Workers

HRpreneur Episode 11

If you have a dispersed team you may have productivity concerns and wonder which state laws apply. In this episode, we'll talk about how to effectively manage remote workers.

Episode Info

How to Overcome the Challenges of Managing Remote Workers (click to listen/download podcast)

If you have a dispersed team you may have productivity concerns and wonder which state laws apply. In this episode, we'll talk about how to effectively manage remote workers.

Reference Shelf

Speaker Info

Kara Murray is the Vice President of Sales Operations for ADP's Small Business Client Channel. Kara has been with ADP for 9 years and has been in various sales and sales leadership positions while she has been with ADP. One of her primary goals is to educate our clients on the ever-changing HR landscape and how ADP can help them overcome everyday workplace challenges.

Kristin LaRosa is Senior Counsel for ADP's Small Business Services division. Prior to joining ADP, Kristin worked as an employment lawyer where she represented employers in litigation and provided legal advice and counseling on day-to-day employment and HR matters.

Meryl Gutterman is Counsel for ADP's Small Business Services division. Prior to joining ADP, Meryl worked as an attorney in private practice representing small businesses in employment-related matters.

Full Transcript

Kara Murray: With technology connecting us across geographic boundaries, more employees than ever are working remotely. If you have a dispersed team you may wonder how you can cultivate collaboration and productivity. And if your business is located in one state and you have employees working in other states, which state laws apply?

I'm Kara Murray. And this is HR{preneur} – a podcast by ADP. You work incredibly hard to support your employees and make your business a success. More than likely this means you wear lots of hats, and one of those might be HR professional. We're here to help you get the insight you need in order to tackle day-to-day workplace issues.

This week, I'm joined by Kristin LaRosa and Meryl Gutterman. Both work as Counsel for ADP's Small Business Services.

Thanks to the ADP Client Appreciation Program for sponsoring this episode. You can get free payroll by referring ADP, and you can find out more by talking to your ADP representative.

So, Kristin, what are some concerns employers have with remote work?

Kristin LaRosa: I think some employers tend to believe that they can't build a team unless everyone is in the same place. Or they think that employees will slack off when working from home. Some also worry about the ability to remain connected with the rest of the team.

Kara: So, how can employers combat these challenges?

Meryl: Many employers bring new remote hires into the office for their first week on the job to onboard and train them. This gives the employee the opportunity to get to know their team and feel a little more connected to the company. Virtual onboarding is also an option if having the new hire come to the office isn't feasible. You can use video to give them a virtual tour of the office and introduce them to co-workers over video.

Kristin: Absolutely. Forming these connections early on and cultivating collaboration going forward will be key. Social collaboration tools, like Slack and Zoom, are a great way to foster regular interactions between employees.

It's also important to set clear performance expectations from the start. And just as you would with employees in the office, check in on your remote workers regularly.

Kara: Alright. I'd like to discuss a few compliance considerations. For employers with remote workers in different states, how do they determine which state laws apply?

Kristin: Generally, it depends on how the law defines covered employers and employees. In many cases, such as minimum wage requirements, it's the jurisdiction in which employees perform the work. For instance, if the company is located in Arizona, but has employees working remotely in California, California's minimum wage rate would apply.

Meryl: And if more than one law covers the worker, typically the law more generous to the employee would apply. So, if an employee is covered by both a state and local minimum wage, the higher minimum wage would apply.

Kara: Wage and hour laws are probably one of the most important considerations, right, since non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked and overtime when due. How do employers make sure all this time is accounted for remote workers?

Meryl: Absolutely. We recommend having an effective process for recording work hours for all non-exempt employees. An electronic timekeeping system that employees can access from their computer or phone is a good option.

Kristin: That's right. It's also important to communicate to employees the importance of accurately accounting for all time worked. Activities, like returning phone calls or replying to email after-hours, must be reported and compensated.

Kara: How about rest and meal periods? Do remote employees need to record those?

Kristin: Some states require employers to provide rest or meal periods to employees. If you're covered by one of these laws, then you should provide these breaks to all non-exempt employees, including remote workers and ask that they record this time.

Kara: Alright. So, another consideration for employers is ensuring compliance with workers' compensation laws. What happens if an employee is injured while working from home?

Meryl: If a remote worker is injured in the course of work-related activities, they may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. While state laws differ about what's considered a work-related injury, it's a good idea to define the remote employee's normal working hours and job duties in advance. This may help you when evaluating whether claims are truly work-related.

Kara: Ok. What if an employee who works from home requests a reasonable accommodation for their disability? Are employers required to accommodate them?

Meryl: Well, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA) and many state laws, employers have to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with a disability, unless it would cause undue hardship.

The requirements to provide a reasonable accommodation generally apply to remote employees as well. To meet these requirements, you may need to make adjustments to equipment or how work is done for employees who work remotely.

Kristin: Also, keep in mind that allowing an employee to work remotely may be considered a reasonable accommodation in itself if an employee is unable to access the worksite because of a disability.

Kara: Alright. I have one more topic that I'd like to discuss: expense reimbursement. Are employers required to reimburse remote workers for Internet and other business expenses they incur?

Kristin: Some states require employers to reimburse employees for any reasonable business expenses they incur. Also, in most cases, under the FLSA, any work-related expense incurred by an employee that would bring their pay below the minimum wage (or cut into overtime pay) must be reimbursed.

Regardless of your specific requirements, it's a best practice to reimburse employees for any reasonable business expenses. When the expense may be used for work and personal use, such as an Internet connection, consider a system to help employees monitor and record how much of the cost is related to conducting business activities, and reimburse them at least that amount. Although, to simplify the process, most employers with remote employees pay for internet and phone service.

Kara: Alright. So, when you have remote workers, it seems like complying with employment laws may require some additional planning. Kristin, Meryl, do you have any final thoughts?

Kristin: I would say make sure you have effective policies, practices, and procedures in place before allowing employees to work from home. And make sure that the option to work remotely is offered consistently to similarly situated employees.

Meryl: I would add that it's critical to make sure remote workers feel connected to their co-workers, so be sure to keep the lines of communication open and check in with your remote employees regularly.

Kara: Thank you so much Kristin and Meryl. We want to thank you all for listening to HR[preneur]. I'm Kara Murray. For all the latest episodes, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Podcast Overview

HR[preneur], a podcast by ADP's Small Business Services, is designed to help you get the insight you need in order to tackle day-to-day workplace issues. In each episode, you'll hear from industry experts about the latest in HR, such as the #MeToo movement, evolving marijuana laws, and more. Each episode will be between 10 and 15 minutes long, but full of practical advice. Find us on Apple® Podcasts or visit the HR[preneur] podcast page on Podbean.