As concerns about COVID-19 and variants have lessened, some companies are asking employees to return to work in the office. In many cases companies are allowing hybrid work arrangements in which employees spend 2-3 days in the office and the rest of the week working remotely. This is being fueled in part by the fact that employees have reported that they want to work from home at least part of the time. Significant legal challenges arise between employers and employees in the remote work context. Because of competition for employees, employers may be forced to develop remote work policies and address employment law issues so they can attract and retain talent.
A global survey from 2018 found that 70% of respondents worked remotely at least one day per week. An Indeed.com survey that same year found that in the U.S., 37% of employee respondents worked for a company with a remote-work policy. Even pre-COVID-19 pandemic, 47% of employees said that whether a company allowed remote work was an important factor in choosing a job.
Among employers, 55% of respondents to the Indeed.com survey said they had a remote-work policy. Notably, 72% of companies with remote-work policies said they made workers more productive and 22% said they were equally as productive. Further, many reported that working from home improved employee morale, reduced turnover and absenteeism and saved on operational costs.
According to Gallup, 45% of full-time U.S. employees and 79% of white-collar workers worked partly or fully remotely in September 2020. By May 2021, 91% of employees reported wanting to maintain remote work to some degree. Employees also reported their preference for a remote work policy is hybrid, allowing them to split time between working from home and the office.
Employees still report that they want the option to work from home. The Gallup findings show 49% of employees reported that if they lost the option to work remotely, they would be extremely likely or more than likely to leave that company. Clearly, employers must consider this policy or risk losing talent.
Remote work can raise significant legal concerns for employers and employees alike. These include:
Employers should understand the pros and cons of remote work, including the range of hybrid options popular with employees, and seek legal advice to develop a policy that complies with all relevant laws. Employees should also understand their rights and consult an attorney if they believe that their employer is violating the law.