Archived Webinar

Managing Remote Workers: The legal and productivity best practices


Presented by Karla Grossenbacher, partner, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Susan Davidson Talmadge, president and owner, HR Catalyst Consulting LLC

 Your first task as a manager of remote workers. Be a leader. Don’t just say things like, Be safe. Empathize and realize your workers have their own challenges.

Now versus then. Some companies had policies for the few remote workers they might have had. Then, you would determine if the job was fit for remote working. You might have sent a manager to the home to assess safety risks. You would have clear policies on hours and communication with employees. But with the pandemic, everyone was suddenly sent home.

Be clear, but be flexible. Set out the tasks with deadlines, but be flexible, especially on working schedules. But be clear about how to communicate with the employee.

Good employees are good employees anywhere. You weren’t standing over their shoulder at work. Assume they are doing their work at home.

Susan Davidson Talmadge said it: “Assume good intentions.”

Ask and listen. Ask them what their challenges are, what help they need, what complications they are having. 

Advice to remote workers: Set a schedule. Don’t spend all day at the desk. Go outside, take breaks. Set boundaries so you aren’t working 24/7. Do the most urgent tasks first. Be intentional about breaks.

Set a defined workspace. And be alert to ergonomic issues. Communicate with family members when you need not to be interrupted.

Tips for improving remote meetings:

  • Turn off notifications on your devices.
  • Set an agenda with time limits.
  • Use online surveys like Survey Monkey to help shape the agenda with input from employees.
  • Remember, just as in-person, a meeting does not need to be a long meeting.

Last words from Susan Davidson: Take care of yourself, take care of your people. Be empathetic, be good listeners, be safe.

Remote working legal issues from Karla Grossenbacher, partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP and part of its COVID-19 task force:

Get a policy. You need a remote working policy, even if just a temporary one, so if someone is not performing properly, you’ll have a policy for handling that.

For all employees. Be sure you know when an employee is working, and how to get in touch with them.

Managing non-exempt employees. Be clear about scheduled hours of work, and put in writing that they are not to work beyond scheduled hours without written authorization in advance. (If a remote worker works overtime, they have to be paid for it whether or not it was authorized.)

Keeping remote workplaces safe. OSHA has a general policy that employers must ensure remote workplaces are safe, but it has also said it won’t be inspecting home workplaces used for office-type work as opposed to, say, sewing clothes at home. 

Workers compensation. Yes, it applies to work-at-home sites, but there can be an issue of whether the injury was related to work.

Keeping confidences. This is critical, especially among new remote workers. Employees likely will be using personal and unsecured Wi-Fi and software. They may not be shredding confidential papers, but simply putting them out with the garbage. Be sure to have a policy that lays out the hazards of handling confidential data and information.

Compensating remote workers for equipment. One warning: If you have employees working at or near minimum wage, they could argue that using personal devices and personal internet connections that they pay for puts their actual earnings below minimum wage.

You asked Karla Grossenbacher:  Can an employer revoke the privilege to work from home if they are not productive? Yes, if the employee was not assigned to work remotely, you can tell them they have to report to work at the brick-and-mortar building. We always say in policies that remote working is a privilege — not a right.

You also asked: Can you take the temperature of employees at a workplace? At one time it was considered a no-no because it was a health-related measure. Now the EEOC has said that it is fine in the context of a public health crisis. Karla Grossenbacher: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Consider the possibility that it could endanger the health of the person taking the temperature, and how to handle someone who has a high temperature.

You also asked: Can an hourly employee who is now working from home be paid a salary? There is a category of “salaried non-exempt” employee so it’s legally possible, but keep in mind they still have to be paid overtime. Think hard, though, about what you will do when the employee is no longer working remote.

Want to reach out (remotely) to the presenters?

Contact Susan Davidson Talmadge at

Contact Karla Grossenbacher at

View PowerPoints (in PDF format):

View a recording of the webinar on our YouTube Channel

Additional materials referenced during the webinar:


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