Implementing work from Home: Planning Matters
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 WFH may or not be restrictive regarding working hours, breaks, equipment used, etc. For example, some WFH 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 WFH 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 WFH policy, the design and adoption of a policy should be carefully planned with forethought. There are many ways that well-intentioned WFH plans can stumble at the outset, setting everyone up for a failure that will be unfairly blamed on WFH.
- What jobs are eligible: 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.)
- Which employees are eligible: Once it has been determined which jobs are eligible for partial- or full-time WFH, then the decision must be made about which employees are the best candidates to successfully adopt WFH. For instance, employees may be eligible for WFH only after they have completed a probationary or training period. Or longer, if that seems appropriate. A second criteria may be a good performance record. Employees with performance or disciplinary issues may be not eligible for WFH.
- A slow, incremental rollout: Adopting a WFH 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 WFH 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.
- 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 WFH 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 WFH 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.
- Cancellation: 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 WFH by issuing a laptop to everyone. If WFH is to succeed, it has to be designed around your company’s goals and unique requirements.