How to Determine Eligibility for Remote Work for Your Employees

As vaccination rates increase across North America and the world begins to return to normal, many workplaces are calling for a return to the office. However, 80% of American professionals have no interest in returning to the office full time.

 

In a post-pandemic world, keeping your most loyal employees on board will likely require some form of negotiation about allowing staff to work from home on a full-time or part-time basis. While not all jobs can be completed successfully from home, up to 37% of them can. Here’s how employers can navigate determining who is eligible when letting employees work from home.

 

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Roles where remote work is possible

A work-from-home option is quickly becoming a popular demand in office workplaces, but not all employers should or can accommodate the request. As a small or medium-sized business owner, how do you decide which roles can be performed remotely? You might consider allowing employees to work from home if your company has roles that:

  • Are 100% online
  • Center around digital communications
  • Involve meeting and communicating with people in a different city or country
  • Require primarily phone communication
  • Center around inputting digital data on a computer

Also, many office roles could work well in a hybrid model where employees work from home for part of the week and then return to the office for a few days. Professions where working from home 50%-100% of the time might be possible include:

  • Consultants
  • Registered nurses in telehealth roles
  • Graphic designers
  • Digital analysts
  • Editors
  • Freelance writers
  • Translators
  • Transcribers
  • Financial advisors
  • Digital marketing professionals
  • Software engineers
  • Accountants
  • Tutors
  • Travel agents
  • Administrative assistants

If your company has staff employed in similar roles, it’s time to develop criteria for who is eligible for a work-from-home option some or all of the time.

 

When does it make sense for all employees to work from home?

Your company might consider letting all employees work from home for a few reasons. A significant incentive for allowing all staff to work remotely is the reduction in overhead costs for company office space. If only one or two staff members are coming into the facility at a time, there’s little sense in paying high rents to hold that space. In this scenario, it’s more beneficial to your business to simply let all staff members go remote.

 

You should also think about letting all your staff work from home if their roles are the same or require similar responsibilities. Allowing select employees to work remotely while requiring others to stay in the office for the same role may result in tensions among your team. Equality in the workplace is one of the reasons it’s critical to develop a structured system for evaluating who’s eligible to work from home to prevent favoritism or preference.

 

How do you determine who is eligible for a work-from-home option?

Before you can accept or deny a request for an employee working from home, consider the parameters that should define your company’s work-from-home option policy. While many aspects are involved in developing such a policy, a primary factor is determining who’s eligible for a completely remote or hybrid work-from-home position.

 

Assess the scope of the work

The most straightforward place to start is to base your eligibility requirements on the role’s scope of work. For example, your work-from-home policy might include the stipulation that staff members in client-facing roles can only work from home a certain number of days each week and must report to the office the remainder of the time. In contrast, employees working independently on projects that simply require a computer and the correct software could be granted permission to work from home permanently.

 

Implement a trial period

One of the main concerns employers have with retaining the work-from-home model developed throughout the pandemic is the quality of work completed remotely. If you’re concerned about the staff at your business going remote or continuing to work remotely, you can include a stipulation for a trial period in your work-from-home agreement. The trial should have a clearly defined start and end date, and you must set clear expectations for your employee about the quality of work required for them to continue working remotely. If they deliver, you should uphold your end of the agreement to allow them to work from home.

 

Seniority

If you’re not willing to let all your employees work from home, or not all at the same time, you need a system for determining who’s most eligible or who gets priority. Seniority is a natural way to determine this in the workplace because, typically, your longest-standing employees are more experienced, can work independently and are more invested in the company’s performance. Consider letting more senior staff members select the days of the week they want to work remotely, and offer more junior team members the option of working remotely on alternate days.

 

Proper equipment and setup

Some roles simply can’t be performed adequately without a proper setup or the correct software. For example, a graphic designer requires a properly calibrated computer monitor, a computer powerful enough to handle the software and the industry-standard software your company is using. If you can’t provide these items for an employee to take home, they may not be eligible to work remotely unless they develop the setup themselves and invest in the equipment.

 

For nearly all remote roles, it’s also critical that the worker has access to a high-speed internet connection. If your staff member doesn’t have sufficient internet access at their home, this could disqualify them from work-from-home eligibility.

 

Listen to your employees

If you want your business to go fully remote to save money on office space, consider speaking to your employees about the change before implementing it permanently. Even if your team has performed well remotely for several months, it’s possible they’re keeping concerns about the arrangement quiet because they believe it’s temporary. Open a discussion about how effective employees feel they are from a remote work standpoint and if they think they’re good candidates to continue working from home.

 

Adapting your management style

If you own a small business, you might be the only manager or supervisor, but in a medium-sized company, chances are you oversee several managers or department heads. Remember that if any of your employees go remote, their managers might also become eligible for remote work by default. If no one is in the office, supervision needs to transition to a digital medium, which requires your managers (or you) to adapt your techniques. If you allow managers to go remote, you must outline effective communication methods within and between departments via messaging apps like Slack or regularly scheduled video calls via Zoom or Skype.

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