The manager, in consultation with an HR Professional as appropriate, should thoroughly analyze position descriptions, responsibilities, and how the work is performed in determining if an employee is eligible for an alternative work arrangement. This is especially important when determining the feasibility of telework, the most common alternative work arrangement. The following three things should be considered:
A. Managerial oversight
Managers sometimes believe they have to be available whenever staff are at work. Alternative work arrangements call for a focus on results and productivity rather than direct oversight and require trust and effective communication between manager and employee. Managers should possess general characteristics that can facilitate a successful alternative work arrangement:
- Comfortable allowing employees to work autonomously
- Effective written and verbal communication skills (as communications may not be face-to-face)
- Flexibility and willingness to explore new ideas
- Effective listening skills
- Strong problem solving capabilities
- Ability to set clear goals and work standards, identify deliverables and effectively measure the productivity of the alternative work arrangement
Certain positions or responsibilities do not lend themselves to alternative work arrangements, in particular telework. Departments should consider the duties and responsibilities associated with a position when considering whether a specific employee is a good candidate for a telework arrangement. Positions that lend themselves to telework are generally those that require independent work that can be performed with limited oversight. Considerations when evaluating suitability of key duties for alternative work arrangements include:
- Do the key duties require ongoing access to equipment, materials, and files that can only be accessed on VCU property?
- Do the key duties require extensive face-to-face contact with managers, other employees, clients, or the public on VCU property?
- Do the key duties require extensive time in meetings or performing work on VCU property?
- Do security issues require the key duties to be conducted on VCU property?
IT system administration with tasks that can be done remotely
Publication design work, writing, editing
Individual, non-collaborative work
Administrative tasks such as writing reports, budget reconciliation, responding to email
Web design and development
Preparing training curriculum and aids
Any task that requires face-face communication to internal or external clients
Project, staff, or work group meetings and discussions
Performance appraisal meetings
Hardware-related IT services
Any task that requires the use of onsite equipment or material
Contract discussions or negotiations
Close supervision of employees
If a position has a mix of duties, the department can consider approving a part-time telework arrangement limited to only the duties that can be successfully accomplished. “Extensive” can be defined as a significant majority, for example, greater than 75 percent. If any of the answers to the above questions is affirmative, telework might not be appropriate. There are broad categories of positions that are generally not eligible for telework, including but not limited to direct service and place-specific positions such as police officers, grounds workers, parking support staff, facilities trades workers, including plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians, housekeeping (custodial) workers, student health staff, residence life staff, coaches, athletic support and operations positions, receptionist positions, front desk attendants, library circulation and support staff, IT direct support positions, and environmental, health and safety staff.
Factors to consider when assessing an employee’s suitability for telework include:
- Does the employee have effective written and verbal communication skills?
- Has the employee demonstrated the ability to be highly productive while working independently and without constant supervision?
- Does the employee have strong problem solving capabilities?
- Is the employee well organized?
- Is the employee able to work within timelines and meet deadlines?
- Can the employee handle being socially isolated?
- Can the employee work in an environment with little structure?
- Is the employee overall a good performer?
- Does the employee have a consistent record of accurately complying with time and leave reporting procedures?
On balance, the collective weight of “yes” answers should outweigh “no” answers to justify telework.