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The Limits of Telecommuting: How Far Away Can Your Employees Be?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 28, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Employee perks, especially at tech startups, are becoming the stuff of legend. When you have companies competing for the best and brightest by mandating paid sabbaticals, you know it's a decent time to be in the job market.

When one tech company sends its entire staff to Cambodia to work remotely for an entire month, you may wonder how your company can keep up. And if employees can work effectively from a beach on the other side of the globe, are there any limits to where they can telecommute from?

The Worldwide Work Station

Expensify is an expense report software company that has been sending its staff on month-long work trips for a few years. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, about 80 Expensify employees will work from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia and Railay Beach and Bangkok in Thailand over the next month:

"The environment a company exists in is going to influence the kinds of ideas the company is able to achieve -- if you have a hierarchical corporate environment, you're not going to think out of the box," CEO David Barrett said. "We come up with our ideas hanging out and drinking rum on a beach."

The Trick to Telecommuting

As happy and effective as telecommuting can make your staff, having employees (or in this case, almost your entire staff) working remotely presents its own legal issues. Tracking employee work time so you can accurately comply with pay requirements, making sure you protect confidential information while out of the office, and your liability for your employees can be more problematic with a telecommuting staff.

That's why it helps to have a good telecommuting policy in place. Being explicit with your employees about the limits of telecommuting and your productivity expectations as well as privacy and security training are essential to having telecommuting work for your business, regardless of whether your employees are across town or across the globe.

You may want to consult with an experienced employment law attorney before sending your employees on their own telecommuting adventures.

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