Saturday Jan 28, 2023

Home Office Issues –


General Business

A spotlight on the legal, cybersecurty, tax and insurance concerns employers and employees face and must overcome in the work-from-home environment.

Remote work, already more common in recent years, became the norm in 2020 as part of the COVID-19 public health response. Even with government mandates lifted and the pandemic appearing to be on the decline, many New Jerseyans continue to work from a home office – at least part of the time – making it increasingly important for businesses to re-think their corporate structures and flesh out sound “work-from-home” policies.

A 2020 survey by The Conference Board, an independent business membership and research association, found 83% of companies expect full-time employees will continue working from home at least three days per week post-pandemic. According to a February 2022 study by the Pew Research Center, 59% of Americans with jobs that can be done remotely are primarily working from home, down from 71% at the height of COVID-19, but up considerably from 23% prior to 2020.

“If we have to look for a silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we can effectively work from home and be productive,” says Eileen Oakes Muskett, a partner at Fox Rothschild Attorneys at Law in Atlantic City. “However, since there is no longer a legal requirement to allow employees to work from home, employers should analyze each individual situation to determine if working from home is the best alternative for both the employer and employee.”

First and foremost, Muskett urges clients with home-based employees to establish a remote work policy with guidelines for the workspace (including what type of equipment should be used); protecting proprietary information (including employees bringing sensitive documents back to the office on “shredding days”); and making time for regular breaks and exercise. “You want to give employees a safety checklist and virtual training on how to set up a workstation that includes a chair at the right height,” she says. “If employees are working at a dining room table, you may see an increase in neck injuries.”

Muskett also suggests creating a virtual bulletin board where the employer posts notices that would typically hang in a lunchroom, as well as setting up a system for tracking work hours for non-exempt employees, as unscheduled and unpaid work time can cause problems down the road – particularly if an employee is terminated.

“There are so many great programs out there to track work,” she says, referring to employee monitoring software like Time Doctor, Toggl, RescueTime, Hours and others. “What I’ve been recommending to clients is to have their employees review and certify their time sheets each week. This way, you have an affirmative statement by the employee that there was no other time they worked that’s not accounted for in their recorded time.”

In addition, Muskett says it’s important to keep the company culture alive and well, which can include having “team days” at the office. “Employers need to find a way to be …….


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