Some professional baseball teams are beginning to promote “Work From the Ballpark” days, encouraging fans to bring their laptops to a weekday afternoon game and work remotely from their seats. Under such promotions, fans can purchase tickets for a special section of the ballpark with access to WiFi, tables, and food so that they could stay logged on at work while enjoying the sights and sounds of the game. Employers are likely accustomed to dealing with employees who play hooky to attend an afternoon baseball game. But with the rise of remote work—and promotions such as these—should employers be concerned with employees logging into work from the ballpark?
While such a promotion might be cheeky marketing to increase attendance for midweek games, it highlights an ongoing concern for employers with remote employees—that instead of diligently working in home offices, employees are working, or attempting to appear to be working, while distracted or in a potentially problematic environment. Indeed, working from a sports stadium could put confidential work communications and information at risk with laptop screens in easy view of onlookers and lead to network security issues with public WiFi.
Employers may want to dust off their remote work policies and evaluate whether they provide clarity around appropriate locations to perform work.
What Can Employers Do About Nontraditional Remote Work Environments?
- Clear Remote Work Policies
Employers may want to review their policies to ensure there are clear provisions or guidelines governing what locations are appropriate for working remotely. As an additional element of security and visibility, employers may further want to require that employees performing certain kinds of sensitive work obtain consent to work from a secure location other than home when necessary.
- Employee Work Locations
In certain workplaces, employers may want to consider how they monitor employees and their productivity. Many technology tools enable employers to track employees’ online activities or the physical locations of company devices. Of course, employers may want to evaluate employee relations considerations tied to any monitoring program as well as the increasing and myriad state and local laws addressing employer monitoring programs.
- Network and Information Security Software
Employers mandating that employees perform any work on employer-provided hardware (e.g., employer-provided laptops) may want to ensure those devices have network and information security and location monitoring software installed and that the technology is up-to-date and sufficient for employees to perform their jobs. Employers that do allow employees to use their own devices (BYOD) may want to require the installation of similar remote work software on those devices. Employers may also want to consider providing employees with internet hotspots for times when employers know employees will be working in public locations to avoid having employees working from shared or open networks. At the same time, employers may want to beware of the risk that such hardware will be lost or stolen.
- Security Measures
In addition to hardware requirements, employers may want to consider implementing policies that require employees to take basic security measures on their own while working from a public location. Employers may consider requiring employees to take work phone calls in secure places, require the use of privacy screens over laptop monitors, warn against leaving laptops and other hardware unattended, and mandate other actions to address basic privacy and proprietary information concerns.
- Compensation for Time
If an employer does become aware that an employee has performed work at the ballpark or in another location where distractions may have been present, the employer may question whether it must pay the employee for the time the employee logged that day. There are a myriad of federal and state wage-and-hour laws that employers can consult (as well as a review of the employer’s policies) that will answer this question. Usually, however, if employees report that they performed work, the employer may decide to compensate them for their time and evaluate whether there is a separate counseling or disciplinary issue that relates to policy or rule violations to consider.
Employees working from home or remotely, at least part of the time, appears to be the future for many workplaces across the United States as technology has made it easier for employees to stay connected with work and complete work tasks. The “Work From the Ballpark” promotion may serve as a reminder for employers that they may want to consider ways to ensure employees are working from appropriate locations to maintain productivity and information security with a remote workforce.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments with work-from-home and employee monitoring technology and will post updates on the firm’s Technology blog. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.