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Telework FAQ

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Teleworking -- also known as telecommuting -- refers to working at home or another location, rather than commuting to an employer’s usual workplace. Teleworkers normally use computers and other telecommunications technologies to accomplish job tasks. Many employees telework only once or twice per week, while others telework full time and go to the office only occasionally.

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Teleworking can be done with standard technologies like a computer, phone and email in addition to remote access or other hardware and software. Wireless technologies like smartphones and tablet computers make being virtual even easier. The equipment for teleworking can be provided by the employer, the employee or a combination of the two.

Most information-based jobs are appropriate for teleworking. Teleworking is ideal for jobs or tasks that require reading, writing, research, working with data and talking on the phone. Some jobs that may not seem appropriate at first may be modified so that employees can telework, at least on a part-time basis.
The ideal teleworker is well-organized, able to work independently and requires minimal supervision. Successful teleworkers have a high degree of job skill and knowledge and strong time management skills. Teleworkers don’t mind working alone. Teleworking is not ideal or desirable for every employee.
Some managers wonder if employees are really working, or if they are distracted with household duties and/or dependent care. These potential problems can be avoided by establishing clear objectives, and focusing on quantity, quality and timeliness. The employee's completed work product is the indicator, rather than direct observation. Survey results show marked improvements in productivity among teleworkers because employees have fewer distractions and interruptions, work at their peak times and experience less stress due to the absence of the commute to work.

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The ideal manager of teleworkers (telemanager) has a positive attitude toward teleworking and is willing to allow employees to telework. A telemanager manages by results and not by monitoring work hours. Telemanagers delegate work easily, are well organized and trust their employees. Not every manager is comfortable with a style of management that is conducive to successful teleworking. Teleworking presents an opportunity for managers to become better supervisors. By focusing on the employee’s work product, telemanagers will improve their organizational abilities and their own skill in managing by objectives.

Teleworking is a workplace strategy that is typically available for the right job, the right employee with management’s approval and the right technology. It is important to communicate the availability of the program so it is not perceived as being universally applicable to all employees.

Although many employees expect non-teleworkers to resent teleworkers, this is not necessarily true. Based on research conducted of non-teleworkers after a telework program has been in place for a few months, the conclusion was that teleworking became “business as usual.” Managers and teleworkers should also make sure that no extra work responsibilities are placed on non-teleworkers, because they may physically be in the office.

Many techniques are available to overcome the feeling of isolation. These include part-time teleworking, core days in the office and frequent communication via telephone and voice-mail. In addition, teleworkers should be included in all scheduled meetings and events.

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Sick leave: Teleworkers generally use less sick leave. An employee working in a regular office usually has to use half a day to get to the doctor or dentist appointment. A teleworker can take one or two hours and then return to work. In addition, often an employee who does not feel well enough to come to the workplace may be able to work some hours at home.

Overtime: For non-exempt employees, the rules for overtime are the same as they are in the office. Please refer to your HR handbook for guidance.

Teleworkers should designate a work area in their homes. A separate room provides greater privacy but is not necessarily required. Teleworkers must gain the trust and support of their families, coworkers, clients and managers. Teleworkers need to be aware of the tendency to work long hours and the need to take breaks.