Work From Home, also commonly known as telecommuting, is a fairly general term that encompasses a range of workplace policies. Most generally, it refers to a policy permitting an employee to work from home (or any other approved remote location-the range of acceptable locations will differ depending on the organization’s policies).
Beyond that, Work From Home may or not be restrictive regarding working hours, breaks, equipment used, etc. For example, some Work From Home policies may require that an employee work within the standard corporate-approved workday. Other policies may simply require tasks to be completed when required.
Once a business has determined that it wishes to explore a Work From Home policy, plans need to be put in place to roll out a new workplace telecommuting strategy.
Implementation: Some Considerations
Initial Note: Unless your firm is facing some unexpected risk event that requires you to quickly implement a Work From Home policy, the design and adoption of a policy should be carefully planned with forethought. There are many ways that well-intentioned Work From Home plans can stumble at the outset, setting everyone up for a failure that will be unfairly blamed on Work From Home.
1. Jobs That Can Be Completed
The first step is identifying which jobs are eligible to be completed from home. Some jobs clearly require a full-time presence in the workplace. Others, with some ingenuity, may be able to be partially handled on-site. Other jobs may clearly be eligible. (note: we refer to “jobs” here, not “employees.” There is a difference.)
2. Which employees are eligible
Once it has been determined which jobs are eligible for partial- or full-time Work From Home, then the decision must be made about which employees are the best candidates to successfully adopt Work From Home. For instance, employees may be eligible for Work From Home only after they have completed a probationary or training period. Or longer, if that seems appropriate. A second criterion may be a good performance record. Employees with performance or disciplinary issues may be not eligible for Work From Home.
3. A slow, incremental rollout
Adopting a Work From Home policy may represent a serious shift in company culture, management style, and operational processes. Doing it all at once is likely asking for trouble. Every project needs a beta stage, and Work From Home is no exception. Try adopting it with a few employees from one unit. Then do the same in another area. Then review and identify issues and concerns by talking with all involved.
4. Set Parameters and Expectations: Policies you may wish to consider
Availability window – Will it be necessary for them to be completely available during certain periods? For example, must they conduct their Work From Home within standard working hours, e.g. 9-5. Or will there be a flex-time approach, where availability is only required within a smaller window, e.g. 10-2.
Responsiveness – How responsive must they be to emails, phone calls, text, etc? One of the risks of the modern workplace is the feeling employees have that they must be available 24/7. Because Work From Home may have less structure, this perception may be exacerbated.
It is only about deadlines – just get your work done on time. The rest is up to you.
If the plan is partially or fully repealed, will employees be given sufficient notice to make plans to cover for child care, etc?
In short, this gives you some indication that one simply does not initiate Work From Home by issuing a laptop to everyone. If Work From Home is to succeed, it has to be designed around your company’s goals and unique requirements.