What is Remote Work?
Remote work allows an employee to work from home or another off-site location on a regular basis.
Remote work provides employees with an opportunity to customize the way they work. It gives more control over schedules and more responsibility for making sure organizational needs are met. This flexibility can help maximize productivity and effectiveness and balance the demands of work and personal responsibilities.
Working remotely can ease the strains of commuting and can be particularly beneficial if a job requires quiet, reflective, uninterrupted work time.
- Work one day a week at home and four days in the office.
- Work three days a week at home and three days in the office.
- Work full-time remote.
To ensure that “out of sight” does not become “out of mind:
Remote workers should:
- Maintain good relationships with their managers and coworkers
- Make the effort to stay “visible”
- Proactively seek out new opportunities
- Continue to give “stretch” assignments
- Ensure teleworkers receive recognition for accomplishments to the same degree they would if they were on site full time
- Coach the employee about job performance and opportunities
Communication is important for any work arrangement, but especially for remote work. Since remote workers, their managers, and coworkers cannot rely on seeing each other every day in the workplace, some questions, updates, and even social exchanges need to be planned and initiated. A full range of communication tools – technological as well as face to face – are needed to maximize effectiveness.
Remote workers should communicate with coworkers and customers from their off-site location with the same regularity and consistency that they would if they were on-site.
- Shared calendar
- Posted schedule
- Conference calls
- Voicemail messages
- Face-to-face on days in the office
- Socializing outside of work
Remote workers should also attend regularly scheduled meetings and training, either live or by conference call.
It is the responsibility of the remote worker to know what is going on in the office. One suggestion is to find another remote partner, a coworker who can help navigate the informal communication channels. Ideally two remote workers who are in the office on different days can help one another.
Managers, team members, coworkers and colleagues need to be able to reach off-site employees – and to feel confident they can do so when necessary. If it is easy to convey information or solicit an opinion, colleagues and customers will be more likely to do so, and the location of the remote worker will be irrelevant.
Managers and remote workers should agree in advance on expectations for accessibility
Whether or not a job is suited for teleworking depends on the nature of the tasks involved, the level and type of direct interpersonal interaction required, and the technology available. Information-based jobs and those that are easily portable – i.e., work product can be sent to and from the employee’s home with ease, speed, and confidentiality – are good candidates.
Some jobs benefit from the uninterrupted time that working at home may allow. Some jobs can be done as well off site as on – e.g., those that involve computer-oriented or telephone-intensive tasks, writing and analysis. Some jobs are simply not appropriate. Examples are, those that require significant face-to-face contact or on-call availability, those that are site specific and those that require frequent access to material that cannot be moved from the on-site location. Safety or security requirements may prohibit other jobs from being done at home.
Depending on the number of days a remote worker is working off-site and the nature of his or her work, your employer may provide certain equipment and other items that will allow the telecommuter to work effectively off site. The employee and manager should consult with IT to determine what equipment the employee needs. Equipment might include:
- a laptop
- remote access
Each remote work arrangement may be governed by a written agreement that covers such issues as space, equipment, furniture, schedule, safety and security, workers comp and tax matters.
Most remote workers work at home; they must remember that they are working from home and should plan accordingly. It is important that remote workers have all the resources they need to be at least as productive as they would be in the office.
If an employee has dependents at home that require care and supervision, arrangements should be made for someone other than the remote worker to provide that care. Remote work is not a substitute for dependent care.
Job performance is evaluated the same way for off-site work as it is for on-site work: by what is accomplished and how well it is done. (Where it is done should not be considered.) Employees and managers should agree upon — and state explicitly in writing — what the objectives are, what level of productivity is expected and how the performance and/or arrangement will be evaluated.
Your employer should be committed to ensuring that employees who choose a remote work are not penalized in terms of opportunities for promotion and/or job changes. The focus remains on the timeliness and quality of the work. Performance, skills and potential remain the basis for promotion or job changes.
Remote workers and managers share responsibility for the remote worker’s career development and should work together to ensure that “out of sight” does not become “out of mind.”
Remote workers can still be integral parts of teams even if they’re not in the office on a daily basis. If possible, the team should have meetings when everyone is available, even if some participate by phone.
Remote workers who have unique skills will do well to cross train one or more coworkers in key areas and make sure these coworkers know where important information they might need is kept.
Although some managers might worry that a remote worker isn’t working enough (because the manager can’t “see” them”), the opposite might be true. Having one’s work around all the time is an invitation to workaholism.
Remote workers should be aware of this risk and be able to set boundaries between work and the rest of their lives.
Questions About Alternative Hours
No matter how well Remote Work is planned and implemented, from time to time breakdowns do occur. Here are some common breakdowns that managers or employees might experience once an arrangement is operating.
Click on any of the potentially challenging situations for some suggestions on how to more effectively manage ongoing Remote Work.
There should be no “slack” caused by remote work. Remote workers are held to the same standards as when they work on site.
During the planning phase, remote workers and managers need to ensure that all coverage and contact requirements will be met, so no additional burden or workload is created for other employees.
The manager and employees (both remote workers and non-remote workers) should meet to discuss the situation and make sure that the workload is distributed evenly. If non-remote workers are indeed picking up the slack for remote workers, the arrangement may need to be modified or discontinued.
This performance management issue should be addressed as soon as possible. The employee should be given an opportunity to improve performance but if it does not improve, the arrangement will need to be modified or discontinued.
The manager should meet with the teleworkers to discuss his or her performance and make sure that the teleworker has the resources and training necessary to provide good service.
Supervising remote work requires a management style that emphasizes results rather than visual supervision. Some managers are more comfortable with this style than others. Many managers report that manage remote workers has made them better managers in general. And because working flexibly often enhances remote workers’ self-management skills, many managers report they spend less time on day-to-day supervision and more time on planning, analysis, and other managerial tasks that often get ignored.
Remote workers will do better if they are already known at the Fund and have established a base level of visibility. Remote workers should arrange their schedules to include being at the office for as many regularly-scheduled meetings, trainings and other functions as possible. They can increase their visibility by communicating regularly with coworkers by all available means and by participating in task forces and important projects.
Remote workers can avoid feeling isolated by using every appropriate communication option as effectively as possible (i.e. phone calls, voice mail, email, etc.). It is also important that they keep the lines of communication open in both directions. Remote workers should let coworkers know that they are working from home and expect to be called when coworkers need information.
No. If employees who work at home have dependent care arrangements when they are at the office, they will also have to have them when they are working at home. An employee won’t be effective at either task if he or she tries to combine them. However, remote workers might find that they have more time with their dependents working from home. Eliminating commute travel may allow an employee to take children to school and/or pick them up. Being home during the day might allow an employee to keep an eye on an elder dependent who might need help or to keep older children from being home alone after school.
Surveys of remote workers and their managers indicate that remote workers are at least as productive and committed as their on-site colleagues – often considerably more so. To counter the perception of being less committed because of being less visible, many remote workers make an extra effort to check in regularly with managers and coworkers.
Managers of remote workers have to focus more on results than activity. This is one of the keys to success for all Flexible Work Arrangements. Out of sight doesn’t mean not working, and the way to ensure work is done is by focusing on goals and timelines, tracking progress, and evaluating output.
The manager’s responsibility is to set clear expectations for the work that needs to be done and hold employees accountable for those results. If the employee does not meet expectations, the manager should handle the situation the same as any performance issue, whether the employee is on a traditional or flexible work arrangement.