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How can a telecommuting employee's hours be counted?

Many employees who telecommute are salaried. That is, they get paid the same amount whether they spend a day working six hours or nine hours.

On the other hand, some employers are reluctant to allow hourly workers to telecommute. These employers may think that hourly workers will put in for too much overtime or abuse the flexibility of working from home by, say, taking too many breaks. Employers also worry about how to track these employees' hours.

The reality? It can be really easy and productive for hourly workers to telecommute, too!

Remote time tracking systems

Employers may already use time tracking systems, the equivalent of clocking in and punching out. Many of these software programs can be accessed remotely. If a particular one lacks that feature, employers can switch to a system that does have it. 

Clear, upfront policies about overtime

Employers should also explain overtime policies to their workers before telecommuting begins. For example, overtime might not be allowed unless an employee has written/email permission from a supervisor to do so. Overtime can also be prohibited across the board. Employees should sign these policies to acknowledge that everyone is on the same page.

In case an employee goes ahead and works overtime without permission, the employer must still pay that overtime but can instruct the employee on how to follow policy moving forward.

There should also be policies outlining how long breaks can be and what types of breaks count toward work time.

Employers who allow workers to telecommute without having any of these guidelines or training in place really have no one other than themselves to blame when employees think they are expected or allowed to work overtime and proceed accordingly.

A different perspective to telecommuting

One issue many employers have with telecommuting goes like this: "How do I know my employee is not walking the dog or playing video games while pretending to work?" In reality, these questions do not make much sense. When employees are in the office, how do you know they are not goofing off online, taking too-frequent water breaks or playing computer games? 

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