From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...
April 22 is Earth Day, serving as a reminder to employers that flexible work options reduce costs, make employees happy and can have a positive effect on the environment.
“It really does make a large impact when people work from home and they stop commuting to work,” Brie Weiler Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, told Bloomberg BNA April 19. Commuting is the biggest stressor on the environment as far as work activities go, Weiler Reynolds said. Commuting by vehicle contributes greatly to transportation, the second-largest sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and company offices are part of the third-largest contributor, according to FlexJobs.FlexJobs research shows that employees who telecommute at least 2.5 out of five days a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.6 million metric tons per year. This savings is equivalent of planting 91 million trees to offset air pollution put out by commuting and greenhouse gases, Weiler Reynolds said. “Rather than having to plant a giant forest of trees, people can do their work at home.”
But employers should also consider that flexible work options can contribute to employees’ health as well, Weiler Reynolds said. Letting people stay home not only decreases greenhouse gas emissions, but it also decreases employees’ exposure to poor quality air and other pollution, she said. In fact, the federal Office of Management and Budget listed poor air quality as one of the reasons to allow federal employees to telecommute, according to Weiler Reynolds.
“Even if you bike to work or walk to work, you’re still exposed to the other cars commuting,” Weiler Reynolds noted. Telecommuting, on the other hand, can benefit individual people, create a healthier workforce and better the environment, she added. “It’s kind of a win-win.”
Beyond the potential positive environmental effects, the rise of telecommuting may be occurring because of companies’ decisions to design open office spaces, Scott Cooper, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Blank Rome Counselors at Law LLP, said April 18. In an open office floor plan, employers and workers are battling over the potential positive effects of collaboration versus the negative effects of lost privacy, and workers are asking for flexibility, Cooper said.
Younger workers, in particular, find the traditional open office plan stifling, according to Cooper. Millennials want to be able to find focus when they need it and collaboration when they want it, he said. Differing workplace demands will likely only further collide and could even lead to conflicts among employees, he said.
“Companies are reconsidering the best environment for their employees” given the technology available to most of the workforce, Asima Ahmad, an associate in the Philadelphia office of Blank Rome, said April 18. Telecommuting is a popular solution for employers, because employees who work from home report higher job satisfaction and loyalty to the organization, making for more productive workers, she said.
Before giving employees free rein to work from wherever, employers should consider some potential risks of a telecommuting workforce, Cooper said. For example, security concerns arise with telecommuting and flexible offices, because companies don’t want employees sending confidential information over wireless networks at non-secure locations or leaving confidential information in sight in an open office, Cooper said. Organizations also shouldn’t have different technology standards or policies that are inconsistent across different employee populations, he added.
HR should also be on the lookout for equal employment opportunity implications if there is a disparate impact from telecommuting policies across employees of different ages, genders or races, Ahmad said. Moreover, employers must be sure to provide a safe work environment for telecommuters, just as they would for those working on company property, she added.
Pay may also become more complicated for employees who work outside the office and could “appear” to be logged on and doing work, even if they are not, Cooper said. Many employers “are way behind on this front,” so HR must ensure processes are in place for employees to accurately record and report all time worked, he said.
Overall, HR must “make sure that the policies at your place of employment actually mirror what you are trying to do” and stay ahead of potential risks that come with changing practices, Cooper said. HR also has to be sure these policies are clearly communicated to employees and are updated regularly to keep pace with changes in the workplace, he added.
Cooper and Ahmad spoke during a webinar hosted by Blank Rome.
To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at email@example.com
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)