This page provides information on local government telecommuting, telework, and remote work policies in Washington State, including out-of-state remote work and links to regulations, examples and recommended resources.
Telecommuting, teleworking, and remote work programs allow employees to work from home (or at a neighborhood telework office) rather than commuting daily to a more distant work site. Telecommuting has experienced significant growth in recent years as technology has progressed, and many agencies are re-thinking their teleworking policies following their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic that required many employees to work from home for an extended period of time.
Reasons for telecommuting's popularity include increased production, more flexibility in the workplace, decreased sick leave, decreased turnover, reduced office space needs, the ability to attract or retain talented employees outside of the normal commute radius, and less pollution and traffic congestion from people driving to work.
Many telecommuters work part-time in the office and part-time at home, but some may work mostly or entirely remotely. Though telecommuting also comes with challenges and is not for everyone, local governments and other organizations can create telecommuting programs that increase productivity, flexibility, and improve the bottom line.
The Telework Enhancement Act was signed into law in December 2010, requiring each federal executive agency to establish a policy authorizing eligible employees to telework. Federal agencies are the primary focus of this guidance, although it may be an example for local action. For additional information and updated guidance, see the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Telework Guide and Telework Enhancement Act pages.
Local governments that are considering allowing employees to work remotely from other states will need to carefully weigh many factors, including (but not limited to):
- Income taxes and withholding (Washington does not have an income tax, but most states and even some local jurisdictions across the U.S. do have income taxes)
- Employer filing requirements and other payroll taxes
- Workers’ compensation
- Unemployment insurance
- Leave laws, including any paid family or medical leave programs
- Wage and hour laws, including minimum wages and sick leave requirements
- Employee eligibility for medical and other benefit programs
- Whether and how often the employee is required to return to Washington, and who pays for the travel costs
Many of these considerations will vary from state to state, and local jurisdictions such as cities or counties may have additional requirements.
For a good overview of these issues, with a particular focus on employment requirements in neighboring Idaho and Oregon, see the state Office of Financial Management’s page on Out-of-State Remote Work Guidance and Resources. While this guidance is focused on state employees, most of the information will still be relevant to local government employers.
Below are examples of telecommuting policies and documents adopted by local governments in Washington State.
- Bothell Telecommuting Policy (2021) – Sets out eligibility requirements, responsibilities, and regulations.
- Duvall Telecommuting Policy and Request Form (2020) – Encourages, where appropriate, the use of telecommuting in order to attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce; also allows for selective telecommuting status based on public health and safety recommendations and measures.
- Edgewood Remote Work and Flexible or Alternate Work Schedules Policy and Procedures (2021) – Includes trial period; discusses structuring alternate work schedules to avoid overtime
- Kent Telecommuting Policy (2021) – Detailed telecommuting policy, enacted following the city's experience with COVID-19. Includes discussion of eligibility and different types of arrangements; also includes telecommute agreement and telecommute review checklists to determine eligibility and safety of the telecommute location
- Lynnwood Remote Work Policy and Agreement (2023) – Includes remote work agreement form in Appendix
- Renton Telecommuting Policy and Checklist (2022) – Telework/telecommuting policy for all employees who are employed in a regular-status position; includes arrangements for informal/ad-hoc telework as well as routine telework. Includes telework checklist
- Sammamish Telework Policy (2022) – Addresses regular telework (at least 4 days/month) and ad hoc telework (short-term and/or for specific reasons, such as health or inclement weather); includes teleworking agreement
- Remote Work Policy (2021) – Detailed policy that includes various possible telework arrangements; authorization and eligibility requirements, responsibilities for supervisors and employees; remote worksite and workstation requirements, shared city workspace policy; allowable and non-allowable remote work-related expenses; and more.
- Remote Work Survey (2021) – Survey questions to gauge staff feedback on remote work and telecommuting, in an effort for the city to provide for regular and ongoing remote work opportunities in the future
- University Place Telecommuting, Flexible, and Alternate Work Schedule Policy (2021) – Includes trial/interim review period and discussion of structuring alternate work schedules to avoid overtime. Also includes telework agreement form and list of equipment provided to employee
- Franklin County Telecommuting Policy (2021) – Includes sample telecommuting agreement and remote access agreement.
- King County Telework – Includes links to HR telecommuting policy, home office safety checklist, telecommuting agreement, and ergonomic evaluation resources, as well as other helpful resources related to technology and best practices.
- Kitsap County Telecommuting Policy (2023)
- Guide to Telecommuting – Interactive website that lays out county policy and procedures in clear Q&A format.
- Thurston County Teleworking Policy (2021)
- Spokane County Telecommuting Policy, Agreement, and Accountability Project Charter (2021) – New post-COVID teleworking policy, FAQs, eligibility checklist, and agreement.
- Whatcom County Telework Request Form and Agreement (2021) – Application form for employees to request regular or occasional hybrid telework; includes telecommute agreement, management review criteria, policy on working from remote locations, and FAQs for leaders to evaluate post-COVID telework.
Below are some resources to help organizations develop or implement their telecommuting policies.
- International City/County Management Association (ICMA):
- Managing Employees You Can't See – Information on how to set expectations, maintain relationships, and connect with remote/telecommuting employees.
- Quick Steps to Prepare a Remote Work Policy for Your Local Government – A quick list of things to include and/or consider in your remote work policy.
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Telework Guide – Provides information on federal telework policies and applications.
- Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Telework Essentials Toolkit (2020) – Best practices and links for administrators, IT professionals, and everyday telecommuting employees to help organizations transition to a secure, long-term or permanent telework environment.
- Victoria Transportation Policy Institute: Telework - Using Telecommunications to Substitute for Physical Travel (2018) – Information on telework as it impacts transportation and equity.
- University of Washington: Telework Policies and Agreements – Includes policies for telework, occasional telework, remote and out-of-state work locations, and equipment and supplies