A password will be e-mailed to you.

Teleworker, Or Teleslacker? Here’s How Companies Can Differentiate.

All of you realize that I really like telecommuting, even though it works more effectively sometimes compared to others.

Before any employer starts a telecommuting program, it ought to ask itself three questions:

1) Will the job lend itself to some telecommuting arrangement? (You cannot perfectly assemble Cadillac Escalades out of your office at home, can now you?)


Too bulky. Where would I put my laptop?

2) May be the employee’s home worksite favorable to operate? Will the worker have proper equipment, or does she possess a Commodore 64 with dial-up modem, along with a rotary phone? (When the latter, are you prepared to provide her with an above average set-up included in the deal?) May be the home atmosphere free from distractions?

Register here for our webinar, “Labor Board Takes Aim at ‘Joint’ Employers,” which will be from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Thursday, August 21. If the National Labor Relations Board redefines the test for determining joint employer status, it will affect employers in virtually every industry and segment of the economy. Presenters will be Dan Barker, Tim Davis, Dan Murphy, and Kim Seten. Don’t miss it!

and the big one, which is really the one I want to talk about today . . .

3) Is that this particular worker fit to work from home? Can she work individually? Is the caliber of his work acceptable? Is she reliable and responsible? Is he motivated, even if your supervisor isn’t nearby? Has she shown personal integrity?

Telecommuting works together with good, reliable employees, but it’s really a disaster with lazy, incompetent, or dishonest ones. When the latter haven’t quite been fired yet (and, otherwise, you need to be focusing on it), don’t let them work at home.

This publish was inspired with a recent Washington Publish article a good internal analysis from the acclaimed “telework” program implemented through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This Year, four whistleblowers reported that patent examiners (those who recommend whether your invention should have legal protection or otherwise) were goofing off and totally avoiding by using it. The USPTO carried out an analysis* and located that lots of examiners were carrying out time fraud (i.e., no longer working once they stated to become working and were getting compensated to operate), “end-loading” (more generally referred to as stalling), and “mortgaging” the work they do (once they were built with a deadline, they’d submit incomplete or shoddy work which permitted these to meet their quota, after which finish up – when – following the deadline).

*According to the Post article, the initial USPTO report linked above was later “sanitized” before being submitted to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce. (You may need a paid subscription to be able to access the full article.)

This, within an agency which has a backlog of 600,000 patent programs along with a five-year believed waiting period.

And patent examiners aren’t minimum-wage employees, either. They’ve scientific or engineering backgrounds, and average $79,000 annually. Towards the top of the wages, they might make around $148,000.

The moral from the story: Don’t enable your marginal employees work from home. But how will you make certain that the average and above-average telecommuters are actually working once they appear at first sight? Here are a few items to be careful for, and a few recommended solutions.

Time Fraud. When you call or send your employee an email, how long does it normally take for the employee to respond? Of course, the employee may not be able to respond promptly every time, but he ought to be able to be reasonably prompt and have a good explanation for any delays. Is the employee willing to share her cell phone and home phone numbers with you? If the employee has to leave in the middle of the work day, does he notify you in advance, with an estimated time of return? If she’s interrupted during the business day, do you know that she usually makes up the lost time later in the evening, or on the weekend?

Within the USPTO situation, some patent examiners would apparently disappear for hrs and wouldn’t take calls or react to emails. Additionally they apparently either was without mobile phones, or didn’t supply the figures for their administrators. Granted, the character of the work needed these to study technical material the whole time. However they must have been available to their administrators as appropriate underneath the conditions.


The patent for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, which began us on the path to perdition.

It could also be smart to require examiners to go in time every day with detailed descriptions of the items they did. (It’s harder to cheat if you need to affirmatively lie to get it done.)

I’m proud to be a member of Constangy’s new e-Law Practice Group, led by Nancy Leonard and Susan Bassford Wilson, which will help employers navigate the complex landscape of the digital workplace by combining legal acumen and technical expertise. The group will cut across traditional legal practice areas and provide help with issues like social media policies, electronic discovery and document preservation, online hiring processes, and much more – including dealing with teleslackers (tehe). You can follow us on Twitter at @eLawConstangy, and join our discussion group on LinkedIn.

“End-loading”/procrastination.This really is waiting before the last possible minute to obtain your work done prior to the deadline, after which dumping everything in your boss at the same time. “End-loading” enables the teleslacker to accept entire production period off aside from the finish.

Within the situation from the USPTO, the patent examiners had quarterly production quotas. Their administrators stated that some examiners completed reviews at rates of 500 percent or perhaps 1,000 percent within the last two days from the quarter (which shows that they are able to find the job done once they needed to). They switched in this heavy amount of work so near to deadlines the administrators couldn’t meaningfully evaluate it, and for that reason the Thomas Edisons, Bill Gateses, and Bette Nesmith Grahams around the globe weren’t obtaining the consideration the work they do deserved.

I’m an expert about stalling, being (ahem!) “deadline-driven” myself. Here’s that which you do to cope with people much like me: Require smaller sized portions from the try to be switched in every week, or perhaps a regular basis. Result in the deadlines just a little unnaturally tight, although still realistic. Accept excuses only within the most dire conditions. Don’t praise employees who satisfy the deadlines – that simply means they are believe that being late is “less than ideal but nonetheless ok” rather than “completely unacceptable.” Penalize those who miss the deadlines. No whim! (Well, almost no whim.) Rapidly enough, you’ll stop getting 12 weeks’ price of operate in two days.


“I’ll think about it tomorrow. . . . oh, fiddle-dee-dee! I guess I’d better do it now, or I might get fired.”

“Mortgaging” work.This really is beating the deadline by submiting sloppy work, after which fixing it later (following the work was already counted toward meeting the quota). Easy solution: Incomplete or sloppy work won’t be counted within the employee’s quota and, unless of course there’s an excellent excuse, may also lead to progressive discipline. The shorter deadlines talked about above must assist with “mortgaging,” too.

Individuals were the great methods to teleslacking. Listed here are “solutions” recommended by a few of the USPTO management which i think won’t work:

Requiring employees to be signed into the VPN during work hours. First, this can not guarantee that they’re working. Employees can surf the web and goof off even if they’re within the Virtual private network. Second, Virtual private network connections could be hard to rely on. Sometimes it’s simpler to obtain the work done around the “outside” after which email it in when it’s done. Your focus ought to be on if the jobs are timely as well as sufficient quality, not whether it’s done inside or outdoors a Virtual private network.

Requiring employees to be in their offices or at their home work stations during work hours. This really is no guarantee against slacking (you are able to goof off within an office, and also you sure as heck can goof off in your own home), also it unfairly penalizes employees who’re doing their jobs.

Monitoring everybody. Too “Big Brother,” as a few of the honchos in the USPTO properly noted. However, these people didn’t wish to single anybody out, that we think is really a mistake. To become fair and steer clear of discrimination, make certain you utilize objective and consistent criteria for figuring out who’s an “alleged slacker” worthy of closer monitoring. It’s fine to create distinctions among employees according to their ease of access, quality of labor, and compliance with deadlines.

Did you notice how the good solutions do not require any special technology or systems upgrades? All they require is low-tech attentive management and a firm-but-fair hand. (Hmm . . . is that good, or bad?)