Working from Home is not 'One Size Fits All'
By Pierre A. Towns | June 10, 2020
During this pandemic more organizations are allowing their staff to work from home. Some CEOs, e.g., Twitter’s, are announcing all staff can work from home (WFH) forever! It is important to understand the benefits and disadvantages of working from home and how to implement a WFH program that still optimizes the organizations’ productivity and protects the culture.
There are several working from home iterations which can be generally categorized as:
Work from home (WFH) – the ability to occasionally work from home when circumstances arise that requires an employee to be at home.
Modified work schedule (MWS) – the practice of consistently working from home one or more days per week. For example, an employee who works from home every Friday or continuously.
When considering a remote working program, these guidelines will be helpful.
General Guidelines for both WFH and MWS:
- When employees are working from home, they should be accessible. If there is a period when the employee anticipates being unavailable (e.g., during an appointment), they should block the time on their calendar.
- Generally, the work location should not interfere with workflows and meeting requests should not be declined just for the purpose of meeting in person later. Employees are encouraged to use video conferencing for meetings with remote participants. When possible, if the meeting is sensitive, e.g., a performance review or disciplinary counseling, every reasonable attempt should be made to meet in person.
- Supervisors should balance the business needs of the organization with request to work from home. Teams should be required to attend critical events and meetings in the office while taking appropriate safeguards. There may be times when you must require staff to change their remote work schedule to attend meetings in the office. It is difficult to maintain organization culture when staff are routinely remote. Special efforts should be made to reinforce workforce culture and esprit de corps.
- All positions and staff are not suitable for WFH or MWS programs. Consider:
- Job responsibilities – Can duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently be performed remotely? If not, can the job be restructured to fit WFH or MWS?
- Is the remote workspace (environment and equipment) conducive to completing assigned tasks? Is it necessary to supplement equipment and Internet suitability? If so, the organization should consider covering the expense.
- Informing the employee there may be potential tax implications.
- Does the employee have a work history that indicates they can work under limited supervision? If they have not been with the organization long enough to establish a work history, consider including in your procedures, a trial period and program participation at management discretion.
- Are there performance indicators which will allow monitoring a remote employee’s productivity?
- Employees should ensure the protection of the organization’s proprietary information.
- Non-exempt remote workers should be required to record all hours worked in a manner designated by the organization.
- Develop a policy and procedure which will promote consistent and fair WFH or MWS implementation.
- Employees need to request to WFH with as much advanced notice as possible. There are also times when circumstances arise last minute that require WFH, but employees should let their supervisor know no later than their scheduled start time.
- When employees request to work from home, they should provide a reasonable purpose for the request (e.g., they have a personal appointment during the day, they are expecting a delivery, or they need a meeting free day to focus).
- Working hours or core availability times should be discussed and agreed between supervisor and employee.
When effectively designed, remote working can be a very effective and cost-effective strategy. It can also promote talent acquisition and retention. If it is not applied consistently, it can also become a legal liability, so thoroughly consider your approach!
Pierre A. Towns is the Managing Partner of Human Resource Capital Consultants Inc., (HRCC) and teaches at the College of Business Administration, California State University San Marcos. He has taught Organization Behavior for the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California (USC) and has guest lectured at the Andersen School of Business, UC Riverside. He is a former not-for-profit and for-profit ‘C’ level executive and has worked for Room to Read, MedUnite, ARCO, DreamWorks, Wells Fargo Bank and Monsanto. Mr. Towns earned an MBA from USC and, a B.S. in Economics and B.A. in Administration from U.C. Riverside. He has also been a guest speaker at International and domestic conferences.
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