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Work-at-home contracts.

A work-at-home contract is a great way to maintain your departmental work level while a staff member is on medical leave. At the National Association of College Stores (NACS), Oberlin, Ohio, we use contracts to augment paid medical leave for staff members following maternity or surgery.

Effort. Work-at-home contracting does require extra effort from everyone. Chores we've accommodated include traveling to and from the home of the person on leave; lugging boxes of files or personal computers; transferring and printing from disks; calling to check in with the person; and sending on mail. On the other hand, it's rewarding and fun to bring over pizza for a lunch meeting and play with the new baby or sign the cast. We keep the work-at-home person informed about everyday work at the office, and when he or she returns, there is a very short readjustment period, if any.

The contract. Include effective date, estimated date the staff person will return to work, a list of projects to be accomplished during that time, and the manager's and employee's signatures.

For each project in the contract, note a time line, specific steps to accomplish, when each step will be completed, and when and how you will meet to check progress. Your staffer might write down a goal of 50 phone calls per week on one project. He or she would document each call and its duration and offer the phone bill as evidence. Longer-term projects may require a weekly phone call or written report to track progress. All goals should be realistic and measurable-the staff member should be well enough and have the time to accomplish the projects.

When the medical leave is scheduled, as with pregnancy, negotiate the contract well in advance. You won't always have that luxury-, you may want to consider now what work might be done at home.

Type of work. most positions can lend themselves to a work-at-home contract if you put some creative thought into what can be done off-site. Work should be project based, with a measurable outcome. We have used work-at-home contracts for writers, telephone sales people, secretaries, accounting staff, and others. We've sent home modems, personal computers, and fax machines to accommodate work. In an employee's off-site office," files can be updated. Data can be put on disks. Orientation programs can be planned. Articles can be written. Salary figures can be checked. Financial audits can be performed. Even meetings can be held on conference calls. Develop a contract based on the amount of time your employee will be away and what projects need to be completed.

Payment. Contracts for exempt positions are straightforward, since the personnel are salaried. Contracting with nonexempt employees paid hourly is more difficult. You've trusted the employee to come in every day and performyou should trust the employee to accomplish the tasks at home and log time honestly.

You may want to contract for a few hours daily or a weekly total, and adjust pay accordingly. If the goals are realistic and communication between you and the staff member is frequent, the work will get done. Have him or her log hours on time sheets. The backup, or proof, will be the accomplishment of the goal.

Work-at-home contracts have been very successful at NACS. They are excellent management tools to accomplish work while boosting morale by acknowledging the worth of the individual-it feels good to know your work is important enough to have you keep doing it while on leave. Employees become more loyal and willing to go the extra mile when management demonstrates its willingness to be flexible.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Good Ideas
Author:Klooz, Melanie
Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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