Working From Home: Pros and Cons

Maria Gnutova

Unlike in times of economic growth, tense times of economic uncertainty require most employers to consider every possible measure that could reduce their operating costs, including those on personnel. In this regard, some employers in Russia are now looking at cutting costs by having their employees work from home.

This solution is attractive economically, since there is less need for office space and other facilities, and expenditure on equipment is reduced, especially if the employees use their own. And on the employee side, for some, working from home can be a good motivator since it saves valuable time, which is spent traveling to and from the office, allows for more flexibility in planning their work schedule, and reduces the inevitable distractions in the office.

However, once the economic feasibility analysis has been completed, employers should start to explore the Russian legal requirements related to working from home. The results of this research could affect the final decision taken by employers.

The main requirement of the Russian Labor Code in this regard, which can be easily complied with, is that the agreement between employer and employee to work from home, should be documented in writing by entering into an appropriate employment contract or by amending the current employment contract.

Another statutory requirement raises more concerns and is more difficult to comply with. Namely that Russian laws mandate that the employer is obliged to ensure that the employee works in conditions that meet all health and safety standards. Employers should also ensure that the employee’s work does not disturb neighbors. To this end, the employer should visit the employee’s apartment and assess the employee’s work place in accordance with the procedure for this assessment as prescribed by Russian statutes. In some cases the assessment also involves sanitary and fire inspections. In practice, an employee’s apartment do not normally meet all the health and safety standards and will therefore require refurbishment. Naturally, employees may not be too pleased about these inspections and the necessary refurbishment.

The next statutory requirement is that the employer should provide the employee with the equipment and tools necessary for his/her work, as well as be able to fix equipment and tools, as it is necessary. However, many employees, especially those working with computers, use their own equipment. In this case, the employer is obliged to pay compensation to employees for wear and tear of their own equipment. The employer is also required to compensate the employee for expenses on electricity, water and other similar expenses that the employee incurs as a result of his or her work from home. Russian laws do not provide the specific formulas that the employer is to use to calculate wear and tear, and it is difficult to calculate the actual expenses on the utility bills that should be compensated. For this reason these issues should be discussed with the employee and the precise amount of compensation or formulas for its calculation should be included in the employment contract.

Employers should also decide how they are to manage and monitor home workers’ performance and record time spent by employees on assignments. Otherwise, employers may feel a loss of control over their employees.

To conclude, there are several issues employers should resolve before they decide whether home-basing their employees is suitable for them. Nevertheless, all these issues are solvable, and certain employers may really benefit if they adopt this solution.