Luke Whetstone: Working from home: Is it here to stay?

Over the past few months, many employers and employees have swapped out their cubicles and desktop computers for coffee tables and laptops and have been working from home. According to a recent study, the average American working remotely has actually been working more hours from home than they were at the office, as the line between personal time and work time has become blurred. 

But now Louisiana is beginning to move through the three-phase opening plan set forth by the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” guidelines. Workplaces are opening back up, and companies are bringing their workforce back to the office.

While many employees are eager to re-establish the old separation between home and work, some employees have developed a preference for working from home. 

As a result, employers are likely to receive requests for continued remote work arrangements. Generally, employers are not required to grant these requests so long as the employee is not seeking a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Additionally, White House guidelines suggest that some persons, such as older workers and workers with certain health conditions should be provided with special accommodations, at least through Phase 2 of the reopening.

Companies considering employee requests to continue working from home must determine whether and which essential job functions can be performed while working remotely. There are many considerations a company should look at in deciding whether remote work should become an established part of its business model. 

The following is just a short list: Is there sufficient security and privacy protocols to protect the company’s, and its clients’, information? 

 Do the company’s employees have the necessary equipment or were they limited while working remotely? 

How effectively is work assigned and time kept? 

Also, because the stay at home period occurred quickly and without much warning, many companies were unable to create policies or guidelines for employees working remotely. 

If employees are allowed to continue working remotely, companies should develop appropriate remote work policies and guidelines that address how and when employees can work remotely.

The last few months have been an unexpected experiment in working remotely. While it is not be feasible to allow all employees to work from home on a permanent basis, companies should consider looking at their own needs and determine if continued remote work, to any degree, is appropriate for them. 

Luke D. Whetstone is an attorney at Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway, A Professional Law Corporation. He is licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Arkansas and his practice includes compliance, litigation, and labor and employment. This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.