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University of Texas study shows complications of telecommuting

With today's technology making it possible to work from home, telecommuting is becoming a popular option with those in the workforce who are tired of commuting and putting in hours at the office. However, a new study by the University of Texas in Austin shows that for many telecommuters, there are unexpected challenges that come with this type of work arrangement. To avoid Fair Labor Standard Act claims, employers should take into account the employment contracts of their telecommuting workers -- and any extra hours they may be putting in by working at home.

The study showed that most telecommuters add 5 to 7 hours to their work week. They put in more overtime, without committing to a standard 40-hour schedule. Most telecommuting hours are being done after employees have already worked 40 hours at their job's location. Depending on an employee's contract, this raises the possibility of the employee working an unfair amount of weekly hours in regard to overtime pay and a healthy balance of work-home life.

Because some employers are expecting longer workdays out of their telecommuters -- or in some cases, are unaware of the extra hours their employees are putting in at home -- this can create a situation that could lead to employment litigation.

Of course, this doesn't mean telecommunication should be restricted or stopped altogether. The benefits of telecommuting can in many ways add to employee satisfaction and company productivity. However, companies should communicate with their telecommuting employees about their at-home work hours and ensure that fair labor practices are in place at home as well as in the office.

Source: Texas Business, "Telecommuting Increases Work Hours and Blurs Boundary Between Work and Home, New Study Shows," Dec. 6, 2012

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