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					Statewide Telecommuting Policy

July, 1996
PURPOSE
The purpose of this policy is to encourage telecommuting among state agencies and to establish
guidelines to ensure statewide consistency for common issues.
POLICY
Telecommuting is a management tool that provides flexibility in meeting customer and business
needs. State agencies are encouraged to plan and implement telecommuting programs. The use of
telecommuting depends on business functions and work tasks to be performed. The ultimate goal of
using telecommuting is to enhance the delivery of government services to citizens of the State of
Minnesota.
STATE OF MINNESOTA
TELECOMMUTING POLICY
I. GENERAL INFORMATION SECTION
A. VISION
We envision a business environment that will not confine state government (agencies and
employees) or its customers or other entities to a specific physical location. We further envision a
significant shift from a traditional physical face-to-face environment to an electronic, virtual,
geographic-free environment (audio, visual, or data transmission) for conducting business
transactions and communication.
Using technologies, government will be able to do business from virtually any place on the information
highway: from homes, from communities, or from remote locations. The impact of these changes will
be: 1) greater customer convenience, 2) improved utilization of state resources, and 3) better
accommodation of employee needs.
We recognize that alternative work environments exist such as virtual offices, but this policy
addresses only telecommuting at this time.
B. POLICY PURPOSE
Telecommuting is a management tool that provides flexibility in meeting customer needs and
business goals. The purpose of this policy is to: 1) encourage state agencies to establish and
implement telecommuting plans, 2) establish guidelines to ensure statewide consistency for common
issues, and 3) provide agencies with the flexibility to address specific needs whenever possible. The
use of telecommuting and technologies depends on business functions and work tasks to be
performed. The ultimate goal of using telecommuting is to enhance the delivery of government
services to citizens of the State of Minnesota.
C. STATUTORY INFORMATION Minnesota Statutes 1994, Section 15.95, Subdivision 10 require
state agencies to prepare a telecommuting plan when proposing or implementing a capital investment
plan for state office space. A guideline has been prepared which provides information on
implementing a telecommuting program. The guideline also mentions specific areas of policy that
need to be discussed within each agency and division.
D. DEFINITIONS The definition of the traditional office workplace is changing rapidly. Telecommuting
and information technologies offer new flexibility in how and where employees accomplish work. The
following terms and definitions relate to this policy.
1. Telecommuting
Telecommuting is a work location alternative that allows employees to meet customer needs by
performing job responsibilities away from an assigned office. Homes or telework centers are equipped
with information technology which is appropriate for the tasks being performed.
This policy only addresses telecommuting as it relates to employees who: 1) work partially at an
assigned office, AND 2) work partially at home or at a telework center. This policy does not apply to
employees who are mobile workers, that is, those who travel continuously. Also, for purposes of this
policy, telecommuting is a formal, scheduled work location alternative. This policy does not apply to
employees who work at home on a short term basis or as a temporary or permanent reasonable
accommodation.
2. Telecommuter
A telecommuter is an employee who uses a set of technologies to perform job responsibilities at more
than one of the following locations:
- assigned office
- home
- telework center
A telecommuter is not a mobile worker; a telecommuter works at an assigned office or at a telework
center a minimum of one day per pay period.
3. Mobile Worker
A mobile worker is an employee who travels continuously and whose current work location is his/her
home or an assigned office. The duties of these positions generally require the employee to meet and
work on-site with clients/customers who are dispersed throughout a district or geographic territory.
This will continue to be an important work mode and these jobs may be enhanced by additional sets
of technologies, but they are not considered to be telecommuters for purposes of this policy. The
definition is included in this policy to distinguish between this work mode and that of the
telecommuter.
4. Telework Center
A telework center is an alternative work location which provides offices for employees working away
from an assigned office. The telework center is intended for use by employees from the same or
different agencies and it is located near employee residential areas. A telework center provides
personal or shared office space, telecommunications links and other technologies.
E. BENEFITS
There are a significant number of benefits attributable to telecommuting including the following:
1. CUSTOMERS OF STATE AGENCIES
Telecommuting can improve customer convenience and reduce customer costs by making services
more accessible through the location of staff or the use of technology.
2. EMPLOYER
Productivity. Productivity is enhanced because telecommuters usually face fewer distractions. They
avoid commuting and they can work at times of the day when they are most productive, both of which
result in less stress. Studies show productivity increases that range from 5% to 20%.
Recruiting/retaining employees. Telecommuting can enhance recruitment in two ways - by making
the job more attractive to a good candidate and by expanding the pool of potential candidates.
Telecommuting can help retain an employee who otherwise might leave employment because he/she
is moving to a location farther from the office or is searching for a shorter commute. Telecommuting
can facilitate an employee who faces a disability. Reduced employee turnover reduces costs and
increases agency productivity.
Image. Agencies which provide telecommuting as an option can improve employee morale and
productivity for the agency and create a positive image with customers.
Absenteeism. Telecommuters who are ill can often work productively at home and use less sick
leave. While telecommuting is not a substitute for child care or elder care, telecommuters may be able
to productively work at home while providing minimal care. The reduction of stress offered by
telecommuting may result in less sick leave usage. Telecommuters who remain at home to work
when ill do not subject other employees to contagious diseases. This may reduce the sick leave
usage of all employees.
Overhead costs. Space savings may result by providing telecommuters with less space, or a
different type of space, such as arranging for them to share space. Associated office costs and
parking needs may also be affected.
Emergencies. An agency which offers telecommuting to its employees can better survive damage to
its office building, handle weather and road emergencies and continue service to its customers.
3. FOR THE EMPLOYEE
Commuting time and costs. Employees can save time and costs by not commuting to the office or
by commuting to a closer location.
Flexible hours. Some employees function better in the morning and others function better in the
evening hours. Telecommuting offers a greater opportunity for employees to balance work hours than
does working at the office. Also, telecommuting may offer the opportunity for the telecommuter to be
at home when children leave for school or return from school.
4. FOR THE COMMUNITY
Community impact. Community leaders and law enforcement officials recognize that telecommuters
who remain in their homes and communities during the work day have a positive impact on the
community and neighborhood. Community life can be enhanced and crime can be reduced.
5. FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Commuting. Telecommuting reduces traffic congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption.
Maintenance and construction. In the long term, roadway maintenance and state office building
construction may be reduced.
F. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
A successful telecommuting program must identify critical success factors that apply to the specific
agency. These factors may fall into the general categories of policies, training, marketing plans, and
even cultural change. Management methods that focus on performance measures, a variety of
human resource and equipment policies and information technology support systems, will need to be
created, revised or interpreted to clearly communicate the implementation and operating practices
that will be used. In addition, a thorough analysis of costs and savings should be prepared which
includes telecommuting costs such as computer equipment, telecommunications lines and future
growth of the cost of remote connectivity.
II. POLICY SECTION
A. EMPLOYMENT CONDITIONS
1. Compliance with Federal/State employment laws. Telecommuting arrangements must comply
with State and Federal employment laws that apply to all State employees. This includes the Fair
Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which regulates the payment of overtime for exempt and non-exempt
employees.
2. Job duties and responsibilities. The job duties, responsibilities and obligations of the position as
well as the related terms and conditions of employment as specified in the collective bargaining
agreement/plan are not affected by telecommuter status.
3. Compliance with bargaining agreements/plans. Provisions of the applicable bargaining
agreements or plans must be followed when implementing telecommuting arrangements. Salary,
retirement benefits and state-sponsored insurance coverage remain unchanged.
B. SELECTION PROCESS
State agencies must create a process for selecting telecommuters and must define the job-related
criteria or factors that will be used to evaluate employee requests. This process must ensure that
employee requests are given proper consideration and that agency and customer needs are met.
Telecommuting is a management tool that provides flexibility in meeting customer and business
needs. Management retains the right to approve or deny requests based on established criteria.
C. EQUIPMENT, SOFTWARE AND TELEPHONE SUPPORT
1. Equipment support. State agencies are responsible for determining the type and availability of
computer equipment, software and telephone support needed for telecommuters. Remote
connectivity may not be needed for all telecommuters.
2. Agency-provided equipment. State agencies may provide, at their sole discretion, computer
hardware equipment, software and telephone service deemed necessary to perform assigned work
off-site.
3. Record of equipment. State agencies must maintain a record of state-owned hardware, software,
and other property located in the alternate work location.
4. Employee-owned equipment. State agencies may authorize telecommuters to use employee-
owned computer hardware equipment and software deemed necessary to perform assigned work off-
site.
5. Installation and repair. State agencies are responsible for installation, testing, maintenance, and
repair of the equipment and upgrades of software when telecommuters use equipment owned by
agencies.
6. Repair of employee-owned equipment. State agencies may elect to provide maintenance and
repair for employee-owned equipment, hardware and software.
7. Business use restrictions. Equipment, hardware and software furnished by state agencies
remains the property of the state and is subject to the same business use restrictions, for example,
state-owned software shall not be duplicated. To ensure hardware and software security for state-
owned equipment, all software used for telecommuting must be approved by the supervisor and
manager. State-owned software shall not be installed on employee-owned hardware unless
authorized by the supervisor. Employee-owned software shall not be installed on state-owned
hardware.
8. Return of equipment. Telecommuters will return state-owned hardware, software, supplies,
documents and other information or property to the assigned office prior to termination of
telecommuting or employment.
9. Notice to supervisor. Telecommuters will be responsible for promptly notifying their supervisor of
an equipment malfunction or failure of either state-owned or employee-owned equipment. If the
malfunction prevents the telecommuter from performing assigned tasks, the telecommuter must
notify the supervisor immediately. The telecommuter may be assigned to perform different tasks, to
assist with repair or exchange of equipment, or to proceed to another work location depending on
current work assignments.
10. Personal use prohibited. Equipment, software, data, supplies and furniture, provided by the
State for use at the alternate work location are for purposes of conducting state business and may not
be used for personal purposes by the employee or non-state employees.
11. Telephone expense. State agencies and employees will be responsible for determining the
telephone requirements for telecommuters and for determining the most cost-effective means for
meeting those requirements. Agencies are expected to comply with state policies regarding long
distance costs and reimbursements.
D. DATA
1. Data Practices Act. Provisions of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and program
data privacy policies must be followed when performing work at home and/or at an alternate work
location. The telecommuter and supervisor should discuss the type and form of data which will be
taken to and from the alternate work location and agree on the security and transfer process
necessary to meet the needs of their division.
2. Security. Telecommuters must provide reasonable security for the data and information that is
transported to and from their office site. Simple measures such as removing disks and documents
that contain sensitive data from desk areas and placing them in secure storage may prevent a major
and, potentially costly, security breach or loss of information for state agencies.
3. Privacy and confidentiality. Telecommuters needing restricted access information while working
at alternate work locations will discuss the need with their supervisor before taking such information
off-site. The telecommuter is responsible for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of data at
alternate work locations the same as they would be in the assigned office.
4. Data retention. Data created and maintained on the telecommuter's home computer, if generated
for the purpose of conducting state business, is subject to the State's records management statute.
This means proper retention and disposal procedures are required and such data remains the
property of the State.
E. LOCATION/TRAVEL
An employee may work from his/her home or another alternate work site that has been approved by
the employer. Travel time shall be compensable in situations such as unexpected directives for the
telecommuter to report to the telecommuter's assigned office when the telecommuter began the work
day from his/her home. Mileage between the home and the employee's assigned office or telework
center shall be considered commute mileage and not subject to reimbursement. If the employee is
working at an alternate work site (not home and not the assigned office), the mileage from the
alternate work site to the assigned office is reimbursable in accordance with the employee's collective
bargaining agreement or plan.
F. SCHEDULE
The work schedule, including normal work day hours and core hours, (if required by agency policy),
and use of vacation and sick leave will be discussed by the supervisor and the employee according to
agency policy and the bargaining agreement. Core hours are those hours during which the employee
will be available to communicate with the supervisor, co-workers or the public by telephone, e-mail,
fax, etc. In addition, the supervisor and the employee will determine the number of days per
week/payroll period that the employee will telecommute.
Unless other arrangements are made, the employee will be expected to attend all assigned office
meetings relating to the performance of the job, including those which would normally be held on a
telecommuting day. Travel to and from the assigned office shall not be considered as compensable
hours.
G. WEATHER EMERGENCIES
A telecommuter who is scheduled to be working at home on a day that is declared to be a weather
emergency is expected to work at home as scheduled.
H. WORKERS' COMPENSATION
An employee is covered by the state's Workers' Compensation laws while in telecommuting status.
Any injury that occurs within the course and scope of employment must be reported to the supervisor
immediately, using the agency's standard injury reporting process. The employee's designated home
work space is considered an extension of state work space only during scheduled telecommuting
working hours for purposes of Workers' Compensation.
I. LIABILITY
1. Extension of state agency. The telecommuter's designated at-home work space is considered an
extension of the state agency during the agreed upon working hours.
2. At-home work space. The designated at-home work space must accommodate any equipment to
be used in work performed and the telecommuter must protect the work space from hazards and
dangers that could affect themselves or the equipment, such as faulty or ungrounded electrical
outlets. A state agency representative may make visits to the home work site, with advanced notice,
to ensure that the equipment and work area are safe and free from hazards.
3. Third party liability. State agencies do not assume responsibility for third party injury or property
damage that may occur at the home residence, such as injury to a courier driver. If an agency
representative is visiting the home work site on state business and is injured, the injury may be
covered by Workers' Compensation. Business meetings held at the telecommuter's home work site
must be approved in advance by the telecommuter's supervisor.
4. Insuring state-owned equipment. State agencies are responsible for insuring state-owned
equipment. The telecommuter has the same responsibility for taking appropriate steps to minimize
damage to state-owned property at the home work site as at the assigned office.
5. Insuring employee-owned equipment. The telecommuter is responsible for insuring employee-
owned equipment, unless otherwise agreed to in writing before a loss.
J. AT-HOME WORK SPACE RESPONSIBILITY
The telecommuter is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate work space at home. The
telecommuter must designate a home work space, subject to the approval of the supervisor. The
telecommuter will be responsible for absorbing all costs related to permanent improvements in the
home such as remodeling or electrical modifications. State agencies may provide ergonomic office
furniture as needed at their sole discretion. State agencies shall develop a policy outlining the
responsibility for office set-up and furnishings. The work space must accommodate the equipment
needed for work while telecommuting.
K. TELECOMMUTER UNDERSTANDING/EXPECTATIONS
State agencies shall develop a written telecommuter understanding/expectations form. Supervisors
and telecommuters will jointly complete and sign the form based on the needs of customers, the
agency, the job and the work group. The telecommuter understanding/expectations form covers
specific conditions relating to working at alternate work sites, such as the designated work space,
work schedule, performance expectations, safety inspection, equipment and property responsibilities.
Telecommuter understandings and expectations cannot nullify terms and conditions of employment
contained in the bargaining agreement.
L. COMMUNICATIONS DURING WORK HOURS
Telecommuters and supervisors are expected to develop an effective communications strategy.
Telecommuters must be reachable, within reason, during agreed upon hours. Telecommuters must
notify the assigned office staff if they leave their telecommuting location during these hours.
M. PERFORMANCE
Telecommuters and their supervisors are expected to agree on work results and performance
measures related to telecommuting.
N. DEPENDENT CARE
Telecommuting is not a substitute for dependent care. Those work hours agreed to in the
telecommuter understanding/expectations cannot be used for the care of dependents. Employees
who need to arrange care for dependents while they work at the assigned office need to make the
same arrangements for the days they are telecommuting. An option is to develop telecommuting
hours around dependent care duties, i.e., telecommuting in the evening when another person is
available to provide care. An employee who has a sick child at home on a scheduled telecommuting
day may use sick leave for that portion of the day when caring for the child.
O. SUPPLIES AND EXPENSES
Supplies needed for the remote work location will be obtained through the normal supply procurement
procedures. Prior approval must be obtained from the supervisor for expenses that will be incurred.
Approved expenses will be reimbursed in accordance with existing state policies and collective
bargaining agreements.
P. TRAINING
State agencies must provide training for managers, supervisors and telecommuters in order to insure
a successful telecommuting program. Telecommuting training may be discussed at local
labor/management committees. Following are lists of items which may be included in the training
sessions.
1. Training for supervisors and managers
Statewide and agency telecommuting policies
The telecommuter written understandings and expectations
Data security and privacy policies and practices
Fair Labor Standards Act, collective bargaining agreement language
Home safety practices and ergonomics
Skills and techniques needed for successful supervision and management of
telecommuting employees including measuring and evaluating employee
performance and joint goal setting
Contacts for questions and problems
Agency process for selecting telecommuters
Injury reporting procedures and knowing what to do in the event of any emergency
2. Training for employees
Statewide and agency telecommuting policies
The telecommuter written understandings and expectations
Data security and privacy policies and practices
Fair Labor Standards Act, collective bargaining agreement language
Home safety practices and ergonomic factors
Telephone answering procedures
Joint goal setting skills
Equipment use and maintenance
Familiarity with injury reporting procedures and emergencies
Common telecommuting issues:
How to separate home/family life from work
Preventing social isolation
Keeping in touch with the office and avoiding career sidetracking
Q. TAXES
Federal and state tax implications of telecommuting and use of a home office are the responsibility of
the employee.

				
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