Working from home and the benefits of flexible work arrangements

Working from home or offering a flexible work plan can be an attractive arrangement for both employee and employer. Oftentimes during interviews, when a candidate is asked what they need or want in a new employer, candidates will reply with “a good work-life balance.” Allowing an employee to do work from home or to work a flexible schedule can offer that.

Examples of flexible work arrangements can include: working from home or having varying hours for when work is done (working four 10-hour days, for example, as opposed to five 8-hour days); different start and end times; job sharing; or compressed work-week schedules. Please keep in mind that all federal and state laws still apply in these flexible work situations.

Things to consider when creating a flexible work environment:

  • Timekeeping
    • A flexible work arrangement or work-from-home scenario can make timekeeping much more difficult. Wage and hour laws still apply and non-exempt employees still must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours per week.
    • Some timekeeping systems allow mobile or computer-based punch systems. If you are considering a flexible work arrangement, BCN Services has a timekeeping system that  offers this capability.
  • Workers’ compensation:
    • A worker’s injury at home may be compensable.
    • Travel that occurs during the commuter’s work day may be compensable
      • Travel to-and-from work and home usually is not compensable but may be in a flexible work arrangement.
    • Employer’s must comply with a hazard-free work zone
  • Privacy/Security
    • Will you want to provide company owned equipment or allow employees to use their home computer? You may want to provide equipment to ensure privacy and security of company information.
  • Liability Insurance:
    • Make sure liability insurance covers the employee’s home.
    • Make sure the employee has homeowner’s insurance.
    • Be sure to obtain any home office permit or license required by local zoning laws.
  • Payroll taxes:
    • Taxes are based on an employee’s home address and work address and are different from state-to-state. If the company office is in one state and employee lives and works from home in another state, there could be different tax implications.
    • There could also be different city taxes depending on where the employee lives and works.

 

Working from home may prove to be a great option for some employers as a way to boost morale and commitment to the job, reduce tardiness, help with employee retention and reduce turnover of staff.

 

BCN Services recommends creating a specific, detailed policy on the expectations for flexible work arrangements that includes a place for the employee to sign and acknowledge the arrangement. Please talk to your HR expert at BCN Services to help create a policy and discuss compliance concerns.

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Kari Stanley, HRCCC Supervisor

Employer tips for employees seeking W-4 filing advice

For many employees, completing the Form W-4 can be a confusing and frustrating process.  The instructions are lengthy (2017 Federal Tax Guide or Circular E is 69 pages long).  As a result, many employees turn to their manager or supervisor for help in determining how to complete these forms.

Although we all want to help our employees, it is important to remember employers should always avoid giving employees specific tax filing advice and should never complete these forms for employees.

There are several different tips that employers can offer to employees to help in the correct tax filing decision without putting themselves at risk.  Here are a few:

  • Employees can change their filings at any time and as many times as they would like by completing and submitting new W4 forms. Don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time, you can always make adjustments.
  • Don’t forget about the “additional amount” option on the W-4, which allows employees to fine-tune their withholding amount. This is an under-utilized option employees can consider.
  • Employees may want to consult a certified tax professional. Such professionals will be able to give knowable filing advice that employers are not able to.
  • Understand your pay cycle. Whether employees are paid weekly, biweekly, or semi-monthly this will affect their withholding calculation.
  • Keep in mind any payroll deductions you have in place. Many benefit plans are deducted on a pre-tax basis and will lower an employee’s taxable wages.  Employers can help determine what deductions are pre-tax and which are not.

In addition to these tips, the IRS has an online withholding calculator that is much easier to navigate and can be found at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator . Encouraging employees to use this online calculator can alleviate a great deal of pressure and frustration.

For more information or for guidance on how to address specific employee questions, please contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911.

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Dani Austin, Payroll Supervisor

Work-life balance: Easy to say. Harder to achieve.

Your most dedicated employees are likely the ones that struggle with work-life balance.  They are committed to their employer and, in addition to working extra hours, they are likely checking and responding to emails during off hours and even on scheduled vacation days.

Although employers may appreciate, or even encourage, this behavior, this practice may not be good for your employees or for the company.

Several studies show that those who work long hours or feel stressed at work are more apt to have health concerns such as high blood pressure, weakened immune systems and risk of heart attack.  Even those that like their jobs and enjoy their work can get burned out by being “plugged in” too much.

Employers should:

  • Encourage and reward employees who work more efficiently instead of longer hours.
  • Establish a flex-time policy that works for both the company and employees.
  • Offer training opportunities, continuing education and teamwork exercises.
  • Insist employees “unplug” during their scheduled vacation time. If they must be contacted for an unexpected emergency, be sure to reward them or give them additional time off.

Employees should:

  • Take the time to get in some exercise even if it’s simply parking further away from the office or store.
  • Set limits by turning off your phone during family time or your kids’ events.
  • If you must get some work hours in at home, set a designated time and stick to it.
  • Make your work time more productive by prioritizing tasks so you aren’t trying to squeeze them in at the end of the day.

BCN’s professional HR staff can help you sort through your concerns on work-life balance and help you design policies that work for you and your employees.

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Be prepared to manage both introverts and extroverts in the workplace

All employers have a primary goal of keeping employees operating at their peak level of energy, efficiency and motivation.  This can become a challenge when leading and managing a team mixed with introverts and extroverts.

Introverts and extroverts can take vastly different approaches when it interacting and communicating with others. Understanding the differences and preferences will provide valuable insight to the people around you.

Introverts generally recharge and draw their energy by being alone. Introverts prefer to concentrate on a single task at a given time and tend to work with more deliberateness and at a slower rate.

Common traits associated with introverts:

  • Often prefer to work in solitude
  • Acknowledge others, but won’t participate in social discussions
  • Will wait until an assignment is refused by others before stepping up to accept it
  • Can possess impressive powers of concentration and problem solving
  • Can provide detailed and well-thought-out plans
  • Are great observers and can act as a buffer or diplomat

An introvert generally prefers to start their workday by sorting and planning alone. When possible, allow introverts to schedule time alone or to use the “do not disturb” signal when necessary. An introvert may not be comfortable speaking up in a group setting. Ask directly for suggestions from this employee either before or after the meeting. Be straightforward with introverts and use objective, logical reasoning for decisions and feedback.

Introverts prefer measurable, tangible achievements and like to work independently with minimal supervision. Give them autonomy and the time/space to work alone.  Allow them time to independently problem solve. When giving feedback, keep your pace slow to allow them time to reflect and develop their response. They respond well to concrete tasks and problems with clear accountability.

Extroverts generally recharge by being with people – this is how they get their energy. Extroverts will usually tackle assignments promptly. They are comfortable with risk-taking, good at multitasking, and can be quick to act. Extroverts gravitate toward groups and tend to think out loud.

Common traits associated with extroverts:

  • Comfortable with risk-taking and multi-tasking
  • Friendly and social with everyone
  • Often volunteer for committees, etc.
  • Instigate personal discussions
  • Can come across as emotionally overpowering at times
  • Can burn out quickly by overcommitting themselves

An extrovert generally prefers to work collaboratively and likes to start the workday by meeting with people right away.  Extroverts tend to be more productive when they can bounce ideas off others during the workday. Schedule regular meetings to encourage extroverts to engage with other people as needed. Acknowledge their ideas in front of peers without allowing their enthusiasm to take over the meeting. Motivate them with challenges to develop new skills and opportunities for advancement. Be gentle with feedback and help them develop supportive relationships with coworkers. When you are giving feedback, leave lots of time for discussion and input.

To conclude, these are only a few of the common traits found in introverts and extroverts. All traits can be seen in both personality types. In fact, many introverts have learned to act like extroverts in certain situations and vice versa.  Encourage introverts and extroverts to work together, as each has strengths that will greatly contribute to the overall success of your company.

 

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager