The Telework / Hybrid Work toolkit is a resource for employees, employers and those who supervise teleworkers. This toolkit is designed to help its users understand the many benefits of telework and hybrid work and to implement successful, sustainable remote work programs. Each section has many links to additional resources.
- Introduction to the Telework / Hybrid Work Toolkit
- General Information
- Employee Section
- Employer Section
- Tools for Managers and Supervisors @(Model.BulletStyle == CivicPlus.Entities.Modules.Layout.Enums.BulletStyle.Decimal ? "ol" : "ul")>
Why hybrid/remote work?
Telecommuting, telework, and remote work are nothing new. Former rocket scientist Jack Nilles is credited with first coining the term “telecommuting” in 1973, which he defined as “the substitution of telecommunications and/or computers for commuting work.” While living in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Nilles questioned the need for so many office workers to drive to the workplace where they talked on the phone or worked on the computer. This led to a nine-month research project that Nilles conducted as a researcher for the University of California. The book, Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff: Options for Tomorrow, detailing the 1976 study showed significant benefits – employee productivity went up, health care costs went down, and infrastructure costs decreased.
Nilles’ early work caught the attention of government air quality and transportation agencies and led to the development of successful telecommuting initiatives across the country. States that were early adopters of telecommuting/teleworking include Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and the Washington Metropolitan Region (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia). Over time, the term “telecommuting” was replaced by “teleworking,” so that the emphasis was on work, rather than commuting. The 2006 Telework Benchmarking Study, conducted by the Telework Coalition, documented the emergence of broader scale “mobility” programs where remote workers could work from anywhere they chose, not just from home.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) has done extensive research through its State of the Commute Survey Report to track the number of teleworkers on a regional basis. COG’s regional telephone household survey has been conducted every three years since 2007. The survey results show that the percentage of employees teleworking increased from 19% in 2007 to 35% in 2019 (the year of the most recent survey). In addition, the 2019 COG State of the Commute Survey Report showed that 25% of employees not currently teleworking said they “would and could” telework if given the opportunity to do so. COG’s survey shows that upwards of 60% of the region’s workforce could telework one or more days per week.
Then came the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many employers and employees into work at home arrangements almost overnight. Some employers were well prepared, having embraced telework long ago, while others scrambled to prepare their workers for working outside of the office. According to the State of Washington Office of Financial Management, the COVID-19 pandemic drove a shift to full-time remote work for approximately half of the state workforce in 2020.
Since the pandemic, the workforce mindset has shifted. According to a 2022 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly half of workers would prefer to continue working remotely in some capacity, and employers are paying attention. Having the capability for a mobile workforce just makes good business sense going forward. Hybrid work models are increasingly becoming the norm and many employers have a combination of staff working in the office, working from home a portion of the workweek, or working 100% remotely from home.
Employer Business Case
There are many well-documented employer benefits resulting from remote work, including:
• Continuity of operations
• Recruitment and retention
• Operating cost savings
• Increased productivity
• Reduced absenteeism
• Improved employee satisfaction
These benefits will be discussed further in the Employer Section of this Hybrid Work Toolkit.
Hybrid work arrangements give employees more flexibility, resulting in the following benefits:
● Work/life balance – Saving time that would otherwise been spent commuting allows employees to add hours back to their day. This enables employees to better balance work, personal, and family responsibilities and reduces the need for time off to tend to these needs. Better work/life balance was consistently ranked high among the reasons employees want to work from home according to Global Workplace Analytics’ The Business Case for Remote Work.
● Reduced stress – Employees also report reduced stress, mostly from reduced risks associated with driving and commuting.
● Cost-savings – Likewise, employees who work remotely on a part-time basis can save between $640 to $6,400 a year due to reduced costs for transportation and parking, work clothes and dry cleaning, and meals and beverages at work according to a report by Global Workplace Analytics. These costs are net of any additional energy costs and eating expenses when working from home.
Numerous studies conducted by state and regional air quality and transportation agencies over the past four decades have shown that remote work is an effective strategy for reducing commute trips, vehicle miles travelled, and vehicle emissions. According to research conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, if those available to work remotely did so half the time, the nation could reduce greenhouse gases by 54 million tons (the equivalent of taking nearly 10 million cars off the road for one year).
Societal and community benefits attributed to remote work include:
• Increased community presence during the day due to more people at home in their neighborhoods.
• Reduced overall traffic congestion, making it easier for non-teleworkers and commercial vehicles to get around.
• New employment opportunities for the disabled, military families, and rural/disadvantaged populations.
• Increased volunteer opportunities for remote workers to get involved in local issues in their communities due to less time spent commuting.
GENERAL INFORMATION SECTION
Purpose of the toolkit
This toolkit is designed to help employers understand the many benefits of hybrid work and to implement successful, sustainable remote work programs.
Hybrid terminology definitions
Telework: The official definition of "telework" can be found in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010: "[t]he term 'telework' or 'teleworking' refers to a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee's position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work." In practice, "telework" is a work arrangement that allows an employee to perform work, during any part of regular, paid hours, at an approved alternative worksite (e.g., home, telework center).
Historically, telecommuting/teleworking was used as remote access to replace the commute, but now it applies to working anywhere besides the traditional worksite. Simply put, telework is an arrangement for employees and managers to work remotely from the office. Telework employees can work from a home office, telework center, a hotel, airport, or satellite office located closer to their home. Telework can be on a permanent basis, temporary, or with a formal or informal arrangement.
Also called: telecommute, work from home (WFH), remote work.
Other terms, abbreviations, and anagrams related to telework:
Alternate Work Location: approved worksites that include the employee's home or telework centers where official business is performed.
Alternate Work Schedules (AWS): an umbrella term that refers to compressed work schedules and/or flexible work schedules. Compressed work schedule means a work schedule in which an employee can complete the biweekly work requirement in less than 10 working days.
Asynchronous Communications: communication that does not rely on immediate responses leveraging technology tools to share information, collect feedback, and brainstorm with colleagues.
Bandwidth: refers to the speed of transmission of information over a communications pathway. It is the maximum rate of data transferred across a given path.
Blended Work Team: when a project team includes remote and in-office employees.
Central Worksite: an employee's work headquarters or official duty station where they would normally report to work if not teleworking.
Cohort Scheduling: when people are assigned an A or B schedule alternating days or weeks in the office.
Collaboration Days: encourage a frequency of days per week or days per month to have everyone or teams in the office to encourage large-scale collaboration.
Compressed Work Week (CWW): a non-traditional work schedule that decreases the total number of days an employee works, such as a schedule of four 10-hour shifts.
Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP): a collection of policies and procedures put in place for cases of emergency, inclement weather, major traffic interruptions (such as road construction or a large-scale sporting event), and/or unexpected events that ensures the continuation of critical services and functions of an organization.
Core Hours: when hours are set for collaboration and meetings, allowing employees to schedule the remainder of their workday to accommodate focus time for individual tasks.
Coworking: a work arrangement where people from different companies work in a location sharing office space, resources, and amenities.
Distributed Team: a group of employees working on the same project and/or in the same organizational unit who are based at two or more locations.
Ergonomics: the placement and design of the workspace for comfort, efficiency, and safety.
Flexible Work Schedule: an alternative to the traditional 9 to 5, 40-hour work week. It allows employees to vary their arrival and/or departure times.
Focus Fridays: when companies encourage no virtual meetings to encourage focus time for employees.
Hoteling/Office Hoteling: dynamic scheduling of shared workspaces such as desks, cubicles, and offices (as opposed to permanently assigned seating and offices).
Hot-desking: employees use any designated employee work area available to them on a first-come, first-served basis.
Hot Spot: a geographic location supported by a Wi-Fi wireless access point.
Hybrid Work Model: a work arrangement where employees spend some time working in the office and some from their remote office.
Non-Linear Workday: remote work employees create their own schedules allowing them to take breaks and work nontraditional hours.
Remote Worker: typically, an employee that works from home in a full-time capacity.
Remote First: when companies encourage employees to work from home or in an office but work to ensure the employee experience is the same for the fully remote employees.
Return to Office: a common phrase used for returning to the worksite after the COVID-19 pandemic
Satellite Office: secondary offices where employees can work, dividing their time between home, office, or satellite offices.
Shared Space: the use of an office at different times by more than one employee.
Staggered Schedules: when employees arrive at a set time to avoid congestion in elevator lobbies or at security checkpoints.
Video Conference Fatigue: feeling worn out after an excessive amount of time spent on video conference meetings or calls.
Virtual Private Network (VPN): a virtual private network allows employees to establish a safe connection that is encrypted from their home network.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP): phone system hosted online that allows calls to be made and received from connected devices.
Work/Life Balance: offering flexibility in when, where, and how work is completed allows employees to effectively manage their responsibilities at work and at home.
Hybrid policy and agreement checklist
To make a successful transition to a hybrid work environment, business leaders should have a written policy and agreement that covers the following:
● Eligibility requirements – Clearly define what the requirements are for hybrid work and who is responsible for determining eligibility.
● Application approval process – Have employees submit a written application that includes instructions on who to submit the request to and what the approval process is.
● Scheduling and availability – Determine how often employees will work remotely and if they will be working a fixed schedule (the same days each week) or if their schedule will vary from week-to-week.
● Location – The application should clearly indicate the address where the employee will be working from.
● Home office safety guidelines/checklist – Have the employee complete a home office safety checklist as part of the application process.
● Performance measurement – Determine how the employee’s performance will be measured and evaluated in the hybrid work environment. Ideally this should mirror the current performance measurement process when employees are in the office. Make sure expectations are clearly communicated to employees in advance.
● Equipment and service provisions – The hybrid policy should clearly state what equipment and services the employer will provide and what the employee will provide.
● Supplies – Determine how employees will obtain necessary supplies and if they will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.
● Training – Require training for managers and hybrid workers; ideally, this should be conducted at the outset of the hybrid work arrangement.
● Workers’ Compensation – Employers are responsible for providing the same safe work environment for both their on-site workers and remote workers; hence, workers’ compensation provisions apply if the injury or illness occurs while an employee is completing a work task during work hours.
● Dependent care arrangements – Hybrid work is not a substitute for childcare or elder care; make sure employees understand that they are responsible for making suitable arrangements.
● Security of confidential and proprietary information and equipment – Work with Information Technology staff/contractors to include security-related information in the policy and training.
● Income taxes – Make sure human resources staff and employees are aware of income tax requirements if the employee moves to another state.
● Terminating the agreement – Include provisions outlining how the employer or employee can terminate the agreement.
See the Employee Section for sample policies, agreements, forms, and training.
Assessing individual eligibility
There are a number of things to consider when deciding to work remotely, and it is worth the time to give some thought to assessing yourself, your home environment, your supervisor, and your organization. Following are some suggested questions to help with that process:
● Have you been in your current position long enough to have a clear understanding of your job responsibilities?
● Do you have a history of better than average job performance?
● Are you a self-starter who works well with minimal supervision?
● Do you communicate well with your supervisor and co-workers?
● Do you need a lot of social interaction?
● Are you able to separate work and home?
● Do you have strong organizational skills?
● Are you comfortable and competent with the technologies needed? If not, are you able to complete training or receive the instruction you need to become comfortable with technology?
● How productive are you when working from home?
The two most common challenges reported by remote workers are feeling isolated (especially when done on a full-time basis) and difficulty separating work from home.
Assessing Your Home Environment:
● Is your home a suitable place for you to work? Will you be able to work relatively free of distractions, or are there other activities taking place that could be disruptive (e.g., your partner operates a day-care center)?
● Do you have a suitable place in your home to work from, preferably a separate room with a door you can close or an area that is out of the flow of other household activities?
Assessing Your Work:
● Do you routinely perform tasks that can be done out of the office?
● Can these tasks be done independently?
● Can the quality and quantity of your work be easily measured or evaluated?
● Is the need for face-to-face interaction minimal, or can it be easily accomplished by phone, email, or video?
● Do you have the necessary technology, including a computer, remote access capability, etc., to work from home productively?
Assessing Your Supervisor:
● Does your supervisor manage by objectives and results?
● Is your supervisor comfortable with remote supervision?
● Does your supervisor communicate regularly with employees?
● Does your supervisor trust the staff?
● Is your supervisor open to new ideas?
If your supervisor does not demonstrate all or most of these traits, that does not mean that hybrid work is out of the question; instead, it is just an indication that you may have to take steps to help your supervisor become comfortable with the arrangement. There are many solutions you can explore to help with this, but one of the best ways to accomplish this is by being proactive about communicating with your supervisor. A simple but very effective method is to send your supervisor a weekly email update about what you are working on, what you have accomplished, any problems you have encountered, and anything that you need his or her assistance with. Generally, this should not take more than 15-20 minutes to complete, and it can also serve as a good planning tool.
Assessing Your Organization:
● What is the culture of your organization?
● Is management flexible and open to new ideas?
● Does remote work support the company’s goals, mission statement or business plan? Is there a sustainability plan or committee?
● Does the organization invest in equipment, technology, and communications infrastructure that facilitates remote work?
Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many organizations have seen first-hand the benefits of remote work and are much more open to the concept, even if this is not something they were supportive of previously.
New to hybrid work? – what you need to know
A hybrid workplace program includes a combination of staff working in the office, working from home for a portion of the workweek, or working 100% remotely from home. If you are working a hybrid schedule, you will be in a work arrangement where you spend some time working in the office and some from home or a remote location.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 the workforce mindset has changed, and hybrid work models are increasing across the globe. This is the result of some important discoveries made during the pandemic - we can be productive working from home, we can better balance work/life, we can recapture time lost to commuting, and we can save money on gas and other expenses associated with working in the office. A survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2021 showed that 52% of employees surveyed would prefer to work remotely on a full-time basis if given the option, and employers are paying attention. All indications are that hybrid work is here to stay, so it is important to understand how this relates to you now and in the future:
● Work model goals. The benefits of hybrid work are well documented. For employers, continuity of operations is a priority, as well as recruitment and retention, reduced absenteeism, and reduced office space and parking costs. Employers understand how these benefits impact the bottom line, and many are taking a new approach to hiring based on a remote workforce.
● How will you be trained? If your employer does not provide training, share resources such as this Hybrid Work Toolkit and find other materials readily available online (see Resources section at the bottom of this page). Working remotely successfully is a skill that can be learned and will make you more valuable to current and future employers.
● Explore career options. There are more remote work opportunities available now than ever before. Many of the top job search sites include positions that can be done remotely. There are also specialized recruiters, known as “headhunters,” that have access to job postings before they are advertised and can help you land your dream job working at home. And, with so many people working from home these days, let former managers and colleagues know you are looking for remote work. Before you start your job search, make sure your online job profile is optimized for finding a job.
● Align with your values. Remote work is opening up many more job opportunities for employees and employers by eliminating geographic constraints (i.e., how far is someone willing to commute to get to work).
● Beware of Remote Work Job Scams. Be sure to research prospective job opportunities to make sure the organization is legitimate and aligns with your values before you accept a position. Some common “red flags'' include: 1) vague job descriptions or lots of spelling errors; 2) lack of an online presence; 3) odd email addresses or URLs; 4) you have to use your own equipment; and 5) they ask for a lot of personal information upfront. The bottom line is to trust your instincts - if something does not feel right, then keep looking.
● Know your worth. Skilled employees who can work independently and produce results are always in demand. Know what the salary range is for your position and field. Be leery of organizations that want to pay you less for working remotely (unless the salary is based on locality pay).
Best Practices for Hybrid Work
Transitioning between home and office
You can make the most of hybrid working by following a few simple steps to plan and organize your workday:
● Set hours for when you will begin and end your workday and take breaks. It is suggested that you maintain the same hours for working in the office and working from home.
● Establish a morning routine that is like your office routine, minus the commute.
● Start the day by identifying in advance what you will be working on. Make a list and prioritize tasks, do the most important things first, check items off as you complete them, and note anything you were not able to complete and why.
● Keep track of deadlines with supervisors and co-workers; communicate progress and delays. Try setting “internal” deadlines for yourself in advance of actual deadlines with others to prevent delays on your end.
● Break large projects down into multiple, smaller tasks and commit to one task at a time (write them down and specify a time for doing them).
● Minimize at-home distractions (anything that might prevent you from staying focused) by setting ground rules with other household members and making suitable dependent-care arrangements. Also, seek a quieter place in your home to work, avoid constantly checking emails, social media, or any other potential triggers that would affect your ability to concentrate.
● Focus on one thing at a time. Studies reported by the American Psychological Association have found that multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%. Rather than making you more productive, multitasking means you spend a lot of time backtracking; every time you alternate between tasks, you have to repeat a bit to find out where you last left off. Multitasking may also make you prone to making mistakes. Focusing on a single task is much more effective. Try to fully devote your attention to one task for 20 minutes before switching to another task.
● Make sure you have everything you need in your home office, such as phone numbers, resource materials, and office supplies. Avoid creating work for others in the office by asking them for something you should have made sure you had at home. Be prepared for technology glitches and know who to contact for remote tech support. [have IT’s phone number available off your work device.]
● Avoid consistently working long hours. Studies have shown that overworking decreases productivity, can have a negative effect on your health, and can lead to a poorer quality of life, elevated stress, and burnout.
● Have a routine for ending the workday. Take a few minutes at the end of the day to clear your workspace and prepare for the next workday.
Staying connected and building trust
The three main components for staying connected and building trust with others when working remotely include:
● Communication – Make sure you maintain regular communication with others through email, text, video, or other group platforms so that you are “visible” to your colleagues. Adapt your method of communication to what works best for the individual or matter at hand. In some cases, it is easier to pick up the phone and discuss an issue directly rather than getting into a lengthy email chain. This is also an excellent way to connect on a more personal level.
● Accessibility – Make sure you are accessible to others during the workday, preferably through multiple means such as phone, email, text, and online platforms. Likewise, make sure you are responsive to others when they do reach out to you. If you miss a phone call or chat request, return it promptly or schedule a follow-up time.
● Accountability – You are responsible for producing results when working remotely, just as you are when you are in the office. To alleviate any concerns your supervisor may have, you may need to communicate a bit differently. For example, specify in advance what work you will be completing from home, provide feedback on what you accomplished, and note anything unexpected that came up during the day.
Adhering to these principles will ensure that you stay connected and build trusting working relationships.
Research conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management in 2021 showed that nearly one-third of employees who telework reported often feeling tired or having little energy, which was seven percent higher than those who work in person.
Factors associated with work from home fatigue include constantly dealing with distractions, being overwhelmed with balancing work/life demands, and being isolated from work colleagues. Symptoms associated with work at home fatigue include feeling overly tired, being extra irritable, and feeling like everything you do feels hard or heavy. Luckily, there are things that you can do to reduce work from home fatigue and re-energize yourself, such as:
● Focus on one task at a time. Multitasking does not make you more productive, instead it causes you to lose focus and drains your mental focus without accomplishing much. You will be much more productive working on one task at a time rather than jumping back and forth between numerous tasks all day.
● Eliminate unnecessary meetings. Attending online meetings can be exhausting, especially if they are back-to-back throughout the day. Work with your supervisor and colleagues to evaluate the meeting schedule to determine if they are still necessary or if a meeting can be replaced with an email or phone call. Also consider meeting length – not all meetings need to be an hour; you can give people time back by ending early. Try to schedule meetings with time before and after the next meeting. Do weekly check-ins to eliminate many, smaller meetings throughout the week.
● Reduce eye strain and screen fatigue. Spending prolonged periods looking at screens can strain your eyes and add to screen fatigue. Get in the habit of taking breaks using the 20-20-20 rule – shift your eyes to look at an object at least twenty feet away, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes. Adjust your screen brightness and contrast settings, increase the font size and/or use large monitors, and consider using your computer’s “night light” 24/7.
● Increase your physical activity. It is very easy to become sedentary when working at home. Not only does this contribute to fatigue, but it can also lead to health issues. Use the time you would typically spend commuting by walking, doing yoga, exercising at home, or going to the gym. Make sure to get up and move around frequently throughout the day as well.
● Drink plenty of water. Dehydration plays a huge role in your energy level and physical performance. Studies show that dehydration leads to decreased alertness and concentration.
● Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents and is one of the leading causes of daytime fatigue. On average, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep to feel well-rested. You might be tempted to stay up later on days that you work from home because you do not have that morning commute, but it can affect your productivity and cognitive ability to stay focused.
● Reduce stress. Stress uses up a lot of energy. Try to introduce a variety of relaxing activities into your day to increase energy levels, such as yoga, listening to music, reading, meditating, journaling, creative endeavors, and spending time with friends and family.
Time management is an essential part of being a successful remote worker. It is important to build your workday routine in a hybrid environment because you may be in different locations on different days. You also want to make sure you are meeting your work-related expectations and avoid consistently working after hours. The tips below can help you manage your time more effectively:
● Regardless of where you are working, you should try to start at the same time, take a lunch break at the same time, and end at the same time. This will help keep you focused and create a clear boundary at the end of the workday.
● Find a personal planning tool that you like and use it to manage your time and boost productivity. There are many online or traditional options to choose from, including apps, paper planners, calendars, wall charts, and notebooks. The key is finding one tool that you like and will use consistently.
● Before you get started for the day, take a moment to prioritize your workload. Use a Telework Task Worksheet to make a list of things you need to get done for the day. Identify the top three to five "Most Important Things" and focus on getting those things done first. There is nothing significant about this simple sheet, you can certainly use it in the office too, but the purpose is to utilize the power of making lists. It is one of the best ways to drive clarity and action. Cross off tasks as you complete them and add uncompleted tasks to the worksheet for the next day. Also, note if something unexpected comes up that impacted your ability to get something done and communicate this to your supervisor.
● Try to do the most important or most challenging tasks when you are the most productive. Your concentration and focus will be much better. Save smaller, more manageable tasks for your low-energy times.
● Block your biggest online distractors. If there are social media outlets or non-work-related websites you frequent, it is an online distractor that you have to manage.
● Establish, or reestablish clear guidelines with family and friends on your hybrid work schedule.
● If you find your mind wandering or you are feeling lethargic, take a quick break to refocus.
At home distractions
Employees who work at home often find they are more productive due to fewer interruptions compared to when they are in the office. That said, possible distractions when working from home [in work from home environment can] include:
● Family members and roommates
● Chores (dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc.)
● Email and social media
It is important to be aware of specific things you may find distracting so you can manage them. Once you identify a potential distraction, develop and implement a strategy for addressing it, and then determine if it is working. If not, then adjust your approach and come up with another strategy until you find a way to overcome your distraction. For example, you may need to set ground rules in advance with family members, so they know not to interrupt you during work hours. This could include discussing your schedule with everyone in the morning and leaving a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your office door if you are on a phone call or video conference. In addition, you may want to develop a routine to take care of any distracting household chores before or at the end of the workday. Also, limit personal email, social media, and television to non-work hours.
Information Technology (IT) Issues
Tips for IT Security
IT requirements are specific to each organization; always follow your employer's policies when it comes to securing information and equipment. Some general considerations include:
● Know who is responsible for backups to prevent the loss of data.
● Use surge protectors to prevent electrical damage to computer equipment from storms and power surges.
● Do not eat or drink around computer equipment.
● Never leave a laptop unattended in a vehicle or at a coffee shop table.
● Consider securing laptops with a cable lock to prevent theft.
Tips to Tackle IT Issues
There are many different IT issues that are unique to each individual, below are some generic tips to be mindful of in a hybrid work model:
● Keep a log of any IT issues you are having. This will be helpful for when you have an opportunity to troubleshoot with an IT professional.
● Communicate any issues you are having to management so they are aware that productivity might be impacted.
● For problems with communication platforms or other apps, there are many online tutorials you can access for free. Here are a couple of resources but speak with your organization's IT department for the best resources.
Tips for Faster Internet Speed
Bandwidth and slow internet speeds can be a significant issue, especially for households with multiple people streaming and video conferencing. To help address this issue:
● Place your router in a central location above the floor.
● Remove things near your router that might obstruct your Wi-Fi signal.
● Update your modem if it does not support the internet speeds of your service plan.
● Get a Wi-Fi extender for a longer range.
● Update your browser and clear caches.
● Check your router settings.
● Limit your family’s data usage.
● Limit your usage when you can.
Work from home setup
When employees work remotely, the home office becomes an extension of the workplace, and workers' compensation applies. Therefore, it is important to have a designated work area, agreed-upon work hours, and a mutual understanding of basic safety requirements. At a minimum, your work area should be free of clutter, and things should be within easy reach. Also, avoid meetings in your home due to third-party liability concerns if someone is injured.
It is good practice for organizations to have employees complete a self-certification safety checklist. For a comprehensive list of practical safety measures, see the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Safety Checklist.
The psychological benefits of remote work have been well documented over the years. For example, respondents to a 2018 survey conducted by the Mental Health Association said that remote work could help them reduce stress and improve productivity by reducing distractions during the work day (75%) and interruptions from colleagues (74%), keeping them out of office politics (65%), allowing for a quieter work environment (60%), and giving them a more comfortable (52%) and personalized (46%) work environment.
Despite these findings, the Gallop State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report showed that workers’ daily stress reached a record high, increasing from 38% in 2019 to 44% in 2021. Contributing factors include world events, personal finances, health-related concerns, the economy, and job responsibilities. The pandemic and sudden shift to working from home, often on a full-time basis, has had an impact on the mental health of many employees, leading to anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness. Many employees may have found that working from home presented a new set of stress factors:
● Social isolation, which is linked to other health issues. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that social isolation, especially in older adults, is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide; increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia; and premature death.
● Lack of structure associated with going into the office.
● Difficulty setting boundaries with family members.
● Being able to unplug from work at the end of the day.
● Maintaining productivity while juggling other family responsibilities.
● Having to troubleshoot technology issues.
Managing Mental Health
It is important to be aware of how working at home may affect you and then take steps to improve your mental health so you can overcome anxiety, stress, and loneliness that may be experienced by remote workers.
● Keep a schedule with your designated start and end time. Consistently working long hours does not make you more productive; rather, it leads to fatigue and burnout over time. Make adjustments, if need be, to avoid working all the time or have a conversation with your supervisor in terms of their expectations.
● Make sure you step away from the computer by taking regular breaks throughout the day.
● Stay physically active for at least 20 to 30 minutes every day. Exercise reduces anxiety and boosts mood-enhancing endorphins and serotonin levels.
● Stay connected and spend time with friends and family. Social distancing and working remotely can leave us feeling disconnected from everyone.
● Use the time gained by not commuting to get involved in your community or to take up a new hobby.
● Schedule time for the fun things you enjoy doing and make them as much of a priority as work.
● If you are struggling with managing anxiety, loneliness, stress, or depression, stop working from home and seek help. Many employers provide mental health services as part of their employee benefits package or contact local nonprofits or government agencies in your community for 24-hour helplines and other assistance.
Boosting your concentration is one of the most effective ways to increase your productivity and quality of work.
● Be aware of when you are the most productive and work on key tasks that require your full attention during these times.
● Determine if you work better with complete silence or sound, such as music, nature sounds, or white noise in the background.
● Make sure to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can easily disrupt concentration and other cognitive functions like memory and attention.
● Exercise regularly, and try to get outside every day, even for just 15 to 20 minutes. Increased concentration is among the many benefits of regular exercise.
● Enjoy nature. Scientific evidence increasingly supports the positive impact of natural environments.
● Explore mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and just being silent to increase concentration, improve memory, and other cognitive abilities.
● Stay hydrated – even mild dehydration can make it harder to focus and remember information.
● Eat breakfast and avoid processed, sugary, and fatty foods that can affect cognitive functions like concentration and memory.
Home Office Considerations
Working from the kitchen table, sofa, or bed is not a suitable place to work from, especially as you prepare to work in a hybrid model long-term. When setting up your home office, determine what you will need to work safely, comfortably, and efficiently and work with your employer to determine who is responsible for providing and maintaining these items.
A report prepared by Global Workplace Analytics and Design Public Group (Home Office Stipend Factsheet 2021) shows that the technology cost for supporting a remoter worker is $1,400 every three years (laptop, webcam, docking station, keyboard, and mouse) and an additional $1,000 every five years for home office furniture (desk, ergonomic chair, and storage). The report also indicates that many companies are considering a home office stipend as they formalize their permanent remote work policies and practices; stipends for home office outfitting typically range from $500 to $1,500 per employee.
Furniture and Supplies
● An adequate work surface with enough space for you to be productive and comfortable. The right desk for your needs could be a table, writing desk, or even a standing desk.
● A good chair that is comfortable and supports the curve in your lower back. You will be sitting most of the day, so find a chair that is ergonomically correct.
● Good task lighting for reading, writing, and computer work. Look for a desk lamp that provides clear, bright light that is easy to work beneath and is adjustable. LED products are 90% more efficient than incandescent lights. Look for LEDs with Color Rendering Index (CRI) ratings between 85 and 100 and a Color Temperature range of 2700K to 4500K.
● Standard office supplies such as printer/copier paper, pens/pencils, paper clips, binder clips, note pads, white board, cork board, stapler, highlighters, etc.
● Additional storage such as file cabinets, bookshelves, credenza, or banker boxes.
● Laptops are the preferred device for remote work because they allow the employee to work at home, the office, and other locations. This avoids the duplication of equipment in the office. If you have a smaller laptop, consider getting a large external monitor and a keyboard and mouse. This will help mitigate eyestrain and create a more comfortable working environment. The use of a USB docking station at the office enables employees to use the same laptop at home and in the office and provides a desktop experience without having to pay extra for a desktop computer.
● “All-in-one” printers have print/scan/copy capabilities, so they are perfect for a home office. These devices are relatively inexpensive, and some printer manufacturers offer cost-effective and reliable Instant Ink subscription services that monitor your ink usage and auto-ship replacement cartridges when you are running low. This eliminates running out of printer ink at the last minute and making unnecessary trips to the local office supply center or office. The cost can be substantially less than purchasing ink from the office supply store.
● Headphones with a microphone can be useful, particularly if you have issues with the sound on your devices or need the noise canceling effect of headphones.
● Surge protectors help protect valuable electronics like computers, printers, and more from electrical damage. An Uninterruptible Power Supply is like a surge protector with a built-in battery. It supplies power to your electronics even if a surge knocks out your power grid, so you can save your work.
● If you are not working on your employer's network through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) make sure you have a way to reliably and consistently backup documents on your computer. Using cloud backup services are a popular solution.
● Check with your IT department on things like backup and storage of data policies, as well as any hardware recommendations or more specific requirements.
● Wireless or High-Speed Internet Access. You want a minimum of 10 Mbps of download speed and 1 Mbps of upload speed of dedicated internet bandwidth for each individual working at home.
● Remote access to your employer’s network, typically through a VPN.
● Videoconferencing capability for online meetings.
● Cellphone with a way to transfer calls when you are out of the office.
When designing your workspace, the key is to find an area that is comfortable and will allow you to be productive. Studies have shown that when people are comfortable, morale increases and productivity as well.
● The best location is a quiet area, preferably with a door you can close to maximize privacy. If this is not possible, then choose an area that is located away from other household activities that may be occurring during the day.
● Make sure the area has a window for natural light if possible. Research has shown that natural lighting helps people be more productive, happier, healthier, calmer, boosts Vitamin D, and can help ward off seasonal depression. You want to add an indirect lighting source to ensure adequate and functional lighting in your workspace. Also, make sure you are not working under the direct glare of overhead lights.
● Make sure the area has adequate heating, cooling, and ventilation so that you are comfortable.
● Consider adding live plants, photos, and artwork to transform your workspace into an area that you like and enjoy. Studies have shown plants clean indoor air by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity, and producing oxygen. They can also boost mood, productivity, concentration, and creativity while reducing stress and fatigue. Pleasant images have been shown to provide a mental escape during times of stress and have a strong calming effect.
Additional home office safety tips include:
● Install a smoke detector and have a fire extinguisher nearby.
● Have two ways to safely exit the work area and have an evacuation plan.
● Do not use space heaters or leave anything unattended on the stove or in the oven.
● If your home office is located in a basement, have the area tested for radon (a naturally occurring inert, colorless, and odorless gas that can cause lung cancer). Most radon exposure occurs inside after the gas becomes trapped indoors after entering through cracks and other holes in a building's foundation. Have your home tested, either by a professional or with a do-it-yourself home test kit. If radon levels are high, contact a certified radon service professional to fix your home.
For more information, visit the Pierce County Radon Page.
Many people are reporting back problems and related ergonomics issues since working from home. Take a moment to assess your home office ergonomics: Place your hand on your keyboard and freeze. Look at how you are sitting and review the list below to see how many you pass:
● Your head should be level.
● Your eyes should be looking straight ahead and level with the top of the computer/laptop screen. If you have to look down at the screen, then you may need a device to lift your laptop.
● Your shoulders should be in a relaxed position and not hunched over the computer.
● Your keyboard should be seated at elbow height.
● Your wrists should be straight when typing.
● Your fingers should not be elevated or lower than your wrist.
● Your chair should support the curve in your lower back. Use a lower back support pillow to help with this if necessary.
● Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.
More information about home office ergonomics is available on the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website:
Videoconference Rules of Etiquette
The use of videoconferencing surged during the pandemic and is likely to remain an essential part of the hybrid work model. Following are some best practices for videoconference etiquette:
● Arrive on time. Be ready to participate when the meeting begins; this may mean logging in early to check your audio/video settings in advance.
● Dress appropriately. Your attire should be business casual and follow your organization's dress code. If you would not wear it in the office, then do not wear it during the videoconference.
● Position your camera at eye level. Make sure your camera is positioned in such a way that your entire face is shown. Leave your camera on during the meeting unless you need to step away from your desk to take care of something urgent, or if the host requests that your camera is turned off.
● Act as you would if the meeting were in person. Stay engaged – people can see when you are typing, texting, or disengaged on the screen. This can also be distracting to others, so stay focused on the meeting at hand. Avoid eating and drinking during the meeting unless it is an informal meeting, and this is acceptable to the host and participants.
● Use appropriate backgrounds and filters. Make sure the area behind you on the screen is free of clutter and other distractions. Ideally, that means pointing your camera toward a blank wall or one with minimal decorations whenever possible. If that is not an option, use a neutral videoconferencing background or purchase a backdrop to physically place behind you and your living area.
● Minimize background noise and distractions. Make sure other household members know when you are going to be on a videoconference and that they know not to disturb you unless there is an emergency. Likewise, keep pets out of the area and silence phone ringers and other background noises. In general, you should mute yourself when you are not speaking.
Sample Policies, Agreements, and Forms
University of Washington/Human Resources/Hybrid Work
University of Washington/Human Resources/Remote Work Location and Out-of-State Work Policy
Society for Human Resource Management – Remote Work Resources
University of Washington Foster School of Business
Remote.co Best Online Courses for Remote Workers
U.S. Office of Personnel Management/Telework Training
LinkedIn Learning – Remote Work (many employers have a free login)
Fairfax County Government, Making Telework Work!
Global Workplace Analytics – Remote/Hybrid Research and Resources
Hybrid model benefits
There are a number of well-documented ways that hybrid work benefits organizations, including:
● Continuity of operations. Teleworking has long been used as a business continuity strategy in response to disruptive events that prevent employees from getting to the workplace, such as local weather-related incidents or traffic problems; regional wide-area incidents like the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; and national/global incidents as experienced with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. With hybrid work, employers can react immediately and safely maintain employee productivity. As noted in the Telework Benchmarking Study, business continuity was identified as an increasingly important driver for telework/remote work, especially for those organizations that felt the direct effects of catastrophic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. As noted by one employer, “It’s hard to quantify the value of knowing 90 percent of your management team has the capability to work remotely in the event of an emergency.”
• Recruitment and Retention. Employee turnover is costly. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that on average the cost to fill a vacant position is six to nine months of the employee's salary. That equates to between $30,000 and $45,000 for recruitment and training costs for an employee making $60,000 per year.
Hybrid work is a proven recruitment and retention tool because it gives employees the flexibility that many are seeking. A survey conducted by FlexJobs, a reputable remote and flexible job search, website, showed that remote work was the second most important employee compensation and benefit. This is especially true for millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), who represent the largest segment of the U.S. workforce (35%) according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In general, millennials support hybrid work models because they see remote work as practical, value a work-life balance, and are accustomed to being constantly connected. Employers are recognizing that working from home is an effective way to recruit and retain top talent. By offering hybrid work, organizations can strategize and leverage recruitment in creative ways.
Remote work can also expand an employer’s geographic reach for the recruitment and retention of skilled workers. “Work-from-Anywhere (WFA)” is an emerging form of remote work that allows employees to choose to live in a preferred geographic location. This gives employers access to skilled workers beyond a limited geographic area who they may otherwise not be able to hire. It also gives employers the ability to retain key employees who need to relocate for personal reasons, such as a (military) spouse’s job change, the need to be closer to other family members, access to specialized medical care, lower cost of living, improved quality of life, and the freedom to live/work where they choose. A study of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Work from Anywhere (WFA) program found a 4.4 percent increase in the output of WFA patent examiners.
● Operating cost savings. One of the biggest benefits to employees and employers is cost savings. According to a report from Global Workplace Analytics:
o employees who work at home half of the time can save between $640 and $6,400 a year due to reduced costs for transportation, parking, eating out, professional clothes, and other incidental spending.
o employers can save $11,000 per year for each employee who works remotely two to three days a week from reduced office space costs, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and less turnover.
Organizations can also maintain or reduce office space even if they hire additional staff by allowing employees to work from home and/or share office space.
● Increased productivity. While employee productivity is not something that is typically “measured” in most organizations, remote workers consistently report getting more work done when working at home due to fewer interruptions and working a portion of the time they would normally spend commuting. Internal surveys and studies conducted by employers have consistently shown that productivity increases when employees work from home.
● Increased flexibility. The ability to work from home clearly gives employees more flexibility to find a better work/life balance. For many, they may be able to take their child to the bus stop or attend their athletic events, begin exercising, socialize more often with friends or neighbors, or volunteer in their community.
● Positive environmental impacts. Having fewer vehicles on the road as a result of hybrid work has many environmental benefits including lower greenhouse gas emissions, less use of fossil fuels, lower carbon footprint, and reduced air pollution. A study commissioned by the Thurston Regional Planning Council, WA showed the following environmental benefits if 30% of the region’s public sector workforce teleworked two days a week:
o Reduce vehicle miles traveled by 14 million miles per year.
o Eliminate over one million vehicle trips per year.
o Reduce greenhouse gases by the equivalent of planting over 100,000 trees.
● Improved employee satisfaction. Increased morale and job satisfaction is a benefit many employees experience in hybrid work models. A September 2020 survey of Washington State Department of Transportation employees found that 81% of employees continue to be satisfied or are very satisfied with their telework experience. One-third of employees are interested in teleworking full time, whereas two-thirds are interested in a hybrid schedule of three days working from home.
Policy related best practice guidelines
● Allowance considerations. According to Global Workplace Analytics (Home Office Stipend Fact Sheet 2021), the technology costs for setting up a remote worker is broken down as follows:
o $1,400 every three years for computer equipment (laptop, webcam, monitor, docking station, keyboard, and mouse).
o $1,000 every five years for home office furniture (sit/stand desk, ergonomic chair, and storage unit).
Furthermore, the Fact Sheet notes that since most companies have already invested in laptops for remote workers, the best practice recommendation is a $1,500 stipend, which includes $500 for technology and $1,000 for home office furniture. Options for distributing the stipend include allowing employees to buy what they need and expense it, distribute the stipends in the employee’s paycheck, or distribute the stipend through a third-party provider that provides commercial grade furniture.
An additional survey conducted by Global Workplace Analytics (The Future of Home Office Cost Sharing 2020) showed that the majority of business leaders felt that it is their responsibility to set up a home office for employees who work from home three or more days per week. Employers indicated that health and safety were major factors in their decision to provide employees with an ergonomic chair and desk.
• Setting up hoteling procedures. In a hybrid work environment, some employers may turn to office hoteling to manage office space and assign work stations on an as needed basis using a reservation system. This allows employees to choose where they work best based on their needs for the day. It also provides the opportunity to collaborate with other team members, fostering engagement and offsetting any potential feelings of isolation. Factors to consider when setting up an office hoteling system include selecting the right hoteling software/application, educating employees on how to use the system, having the right equipment and technology tools available at each work station, and providing maps or wayfinding signs so employees can easily find their assigned work space. While the terms “office hoteling” and “hot desking” are often used interchangeably; hoteling typically requires advanced reservations whereas hot desking does not (space is available on a first come, first served basis).
● Equipment check-out. Employers should have a way to track all equipment assigned to remote workers, including cell phones, computers, laptops, monitors, printers, and furniture. This includes equipment checked out of the office and/or directly shipped to employees’ homes. Employees should sign for the equipment received and the organization’s telework policy should include provisions for how the equipment will be returned within a specified period of time due to a voluntary or involuntary separation of employment.
● Telework reimbursements. In addition to the allowance considerations for equipment and furniture discussed above, it is common practice to reimburse employees for related work expenses such as printing supplies (paper and ink), a percentage of home Internet costs, cell phone costs (if the employee uses their personal phone), and any other incidental expenses related to working remotely. Employee expenses that are not typically reimbursable are home utility costs and commuting costs. For employees who work far away from the organization’s office, the costs for periodic travel expenses to the work site is something that can be negotiated.
● Rideshare subsidies. Employees who work remotely may often use sustainable modes of transportation when they do come to the office, such as mass transit, carpooling, vanpooling, biking, and walking. Ideally, they should be included in any rideshare subsidies available to other employees.
Onboarding best practices
Determining hybrid model eligibility and ‘work from home’ frequency for staff requires a two-step process that includes evaluating positions and evaluating employees. This information can then be used to determine if employees are best suited for one of the following three categories: 100% office, hybrid (combination of home/office), or 100% remote.
Comprehensive approach to decision making
● Evaluating positions. The first step is to evaluate the position to determine if it is conducive to being done remotely. Factors to consider include – are there measurable deliverables? can tasks be done independently? are there any restrictions that would eliminate the position from being eligible? If the position does not lend itself to being done remotely on a regular basis, consider whether there are specific tasks that can be done periodically, maybe on a monthly or quarterly basis.
● Evaluating staff. The next step is to evaluate employee eligibility. Are they meeting performance expectations? do they have good communication skills? are they flexible with change? do they solve problems independently? do they have good organizational skills? and do they require minimum supervision? These are the important factors to consider in the decision-making process. Employees who had a great work ethic when they worked in the office, will typically carry that positive attitude and self-motivation with them when they work from home. The same can be said about employees who under perform in the office.
Also consider employee preference. Some employees may opt not to work from home for a variety of reasons and some may just prefer to come into the office. Others may have requests or justification for other work arrangements, so make sure to have these important conversations and do not make assumptions.
• Scheduling analysis. The information gathered from the position and employee evaluations can then be used to help put together work schedules based on remote/hybrid status, office coverage needs, and overall staff availability. This will vary from organization to organization and will often vary from week to week after taking other factors into consideration such as employees who may be on scheduled leave or who call in sick. It is important that someone within the organization/team be responsible for preparing, updating, and communicating the work schedule so that all employees have the same information and know what the expectations are. Hybrid employees need to remain flexible and understand they may be required to come into the office as needed to make sure there is adequate office coverage.
Considerations and trends for hiring remote workers
A 2022 survey of 14,000 U.S. employers showed that hybrid work is the future for most offices and failing to offer flexible work arrangements is a risk for organizations. In addition, hybrid work must be productive and engaging, not just a policy or perk. The bottom line is that hybrid work is here to stay. With that in mind, employers need to understand how to build successful hybrid teams.
Tools to build a successful hybrid team.
● Goals. Establishing individual and team goals are important for team cohesion, especially in a hybrid work environment. Setting goals can help motivate the team, clarify expectations, keep employees on track, and make it easier to evaluate performance. For goals to be effective, they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART) and employees should be directly involved in the goal-setting process.
● Trust. In a hybrid work model, trust is at the core of a successful team. Employees who work from home tend to feel greater empowerment because of the trust that is extended to them to perform their job duties off-site from home. For managers, the rule of thumb should be to trust your employees until you have a reason not to. Operating in a hybrid work environment may require a change in the way employees and managers communicate with each other to make sure trust is maintained. One of the best ways to accomplish this is for hybrid/remote workers to keep their managers informed of what they are working on when out of the office. This can be in the form of a daily email, weekly report, or periodic check in phone calls.
If performance issues do arise, it is important to address them promptly. This can be accomplished by having meaningful conversations with staff to understand what is going on in their lives that may impact their work performance or productivity, like child or adult care situations or other circumstances. Build accountability by addressing performance, when necessary, rather than avoiding the situation. Addressing performance issues comes with the territory of being a manager and could affect the morale of your team if ignored.
● Accountability. Accountability is a must in a hybrid work model. Managers need to be able to answer the question, How do I know they’re working? The answer starts with no longer associating a workplace or building with the act of working. Instead, the focus needs to be on the output of the work that is being done and managing by results and not observation. This includes establishing measurable deliverables based on clear priorities, specific action items, and realistic deadlines that are developed with the employee’s input and the understanding that performance will be evaluated based on specific outcomes.
● Effective communication. In a hybrid work model, it is important that staff are not left out of communications. Think through how information is disseminated and solicit feedback from team members on the best way to share information. Generally, team emails are used as a primary go to because: 1) everyone receives the same message/information, even if they were not present or at work that day; and 2) it is less time-consuming than calling a meeting. This may require setting new expectations for all team members to avoid the potential for emails to get buried or overlooked. Also, look for opportunities to test new collaboration platforms.
Managers should build individual relationships and keep the lines of communication open with staff. How often to communicate depends on the team dynamics and individual team members. Make sure meetings have a specific purpose. More meetings do not necessarily mean better communication. Managing a hybrid team does not require reinventing the wheel. What it does require is deliberate conversations and decisions around establishing new processes, policies, and actions to make sure communication is effective.
● Leadership. In today’s evolving workplace, knowing how to lead remote/hybrid teams is a necessity that requires leaders to adapt how they communicate, create a great work culture, engage staff, and address challenges. These are all skills that can be developed and there are a wide range of resources available, including online articles, books, videos, and certification courses (see Resources Section).
● Teamwork. There are more social technology tools available now than ever before that allow staff to work, connect, and stay engaged. Create team events like virtual coffee breaks, team lunches, and social activities to increase rapport and foster familiarity.
Information Technology (IT) Tips
● Security and confidentiality. To ensure that information is handled appropriately, security and confidentiality should be included in the organization’s remote/hybrid work policy and covered in training for managers and employees.
● Generic tips to tackle IT issues. Remote/hybrid workers should report IT issues to the organization’s help desk and communicate issues to management, especially if it will impact their productivity.
● Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has determined that allowing an employee to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation where the person's disability prevents successfully performing the job on-site and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing significant difficulty or expense.
● Shared drive tips and tricks. Shared drives are shared online spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device. The organization’s IT staff should be responsible for setting up the shared drive and instructing staff on its use.
The importance of training.
Training for hybrid workers and managers is a critical but often overlooked aspect of remote work. Sending employees home unprepared and hoping they figure it out for themselves can lead to misunderstandings and frustration on the part of remote workers, managers, and coworkers. Ideally, training should be provided at the outset of the remote work arrangement and should cover the following:
● Policies and procedures. Training should cover the key aspects of the organization’s remote work policy and related procedures, including the approval process, general terms and conditions, and process for terminating the agreement by the employee and organization.
● Preparing staff and establishing expectations. For employees, training should cover key areas such as building trust, planning and organizing remote work days, home office set up, IT considerations, safety tips, and employee effectiveness. For managers, training should cover basics such as understanding the benefits of remote/hybrid work, determining employee eligibility, communicating expectations, and performance management.
● Factors to consider for non-teleworking employees. Not all employees can or want to work from home and these employees will continue to work in the office. Remote workers need to understand the potential shift in responsibilities that may impact their office coworkers and be mindful of how they can minimize this impact. Remote workers may also need to be proactive and encourage communication with their coworkers when they are out of the office.
Training can be developed and conducted by the organization’s staff (typically human resources and information technology staff) and can be delivered in person or online. More detailed information is available in the Employee, Management, and Resources sections of this Toolkit.
MANAGEMENT AND SUPERVISORS SECTION
The decision to allow an employee to become a hybrid worker is typically made at the management level, and eligibility is based on a number of factors for the position and the employee. The criteria used should be contained in the organization’s written hybrid work/telework policy and applied uniformly. Overall, eligibility should be based on the determination that the duties and responsibilities can be performed at an alternative location without negatively affecting employee performance or organizational operations. General factors to consider include:
• Conduciveness – Start by evaluating each position to determine what tasks or job functions can be performed remotely. Good indicators are that the work can be performed independently, the need for face-to-face interaction is minimal or can be replaced by other means (phone, email, or video), access to needed documents and files can be accomplished remotely, and the quantity and quality of performance are easily evaluated.
When assessing position eligibility, managers should also consider how often the work can be performed remotely. It can be helpful to evaluate positions by using different categories, such as 100% Office (work can only be performed in the office), Hybrid (a combination of working at home and in the office), or 100% Remote (all work can be performed remotely). Actual frequency needs to be balanced with staffing levels required to maintain the organization’s business needs and to provide adequate office coverage.
• Restrictions – Not all jobs can be done remotely. A 2020 study conducted by the Washington State Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington found that upwards of 75% of jobs are challenging to do from home. The metrics used in the study included the importance of using a computer in the job and the importance of interacting with the public. Workers whose jobs require a high level of interaction with the public and that do not involve the use of a computer are not likely to be able to work remotely. These are typically people employed in retail, health care, manufacturing, food services, hospitality, personal care services, and transportation providers.
• Measurable Deliverables – Employee achievements should be specific, measurable, and have realistic timeframes for completion. Examples include completing a report, preparing a budget, reviewing/editing a document, preparing a presentation, processing payments, or any other output that shows progress toward completing a specific goal or task. Incorporating measurable deliverables into the hybrid work environment makes employee performance evaluations easier and more transparent.
After determining the position’s eligibility, the next step is to determine if the employee is a good candidate for working remotely. Factors to consider include:
• Dependable. Does the employee have a demonstrated history of being present, abiding by organizational rules and policies, getting things done on time, and being consistent?
• Knowledgeable. Is the employee familiar with the requirements of the position?
• Organized. Does the employee have a process for managing work, setting priorities, and tracking progress and delays?
• Independent. Is the employee self-directed and able to work well with minimal supervision?
• Flexible. Is the employee able to embrace change, accept new challenges, and adapt to changing circumstances with grace and resiliency?
• Productive. Is the employee able to prioritize work, focus on the task at hand, and complete work within a reasonable amount of time, with minimal errors?
• Problem solver. Is the employee able to come up with solutions or seek assistance if needed when issues arise, team up in emergencies, and keep things moving smoothly so that there are no surprises?
• Communicative. Is the employee able to effectively convey pertinent information and avoid misunderstandings, use organizational communications tools, and engage with others, especially when working remotely?
• Manages Time Well. Is the employee able to prioritize tasks, plan and schedule work to be completed, and anticipate the unexpected?
• Meets Performance Expectations. Does the employee meet the organization’s performance rating requirements to be considered eligible for hybrid work?
• Adequate Home Workspace. This factor is two-fold. First, is the employee’s home a suitable place to work from – free from significant distractions or activities? If there are others working at home or running a home-based business, such as childcare, the home may not be conducive to getting work done. Second, does the employee have a suitable place to work from in the home, preferably a separate room or quiet, designated work area? Also determine if the employee has a suitable ergonomic desk and chair, rather than working from the couch or kitchen table.
• Access to Technology. Does the employee have reliable, secure Internet access with sufficient upload and download speeds to perform work?
If the position is not suitable for remote work, even on an occasional basis, this should be communicated to the employee. If possible, consider offering other flexible work arrangements that provide alternate schedules from the traditional workday/week to help employees meet personal or family needs.
If the position is suitable for remote work but there are concerns about the employee’s eligibility, managers should consult with their human resources department for guidance. Generally, the manager could set specific performance expectations that must be met before the employee can work remotely and then establish a trial period. If the employee meets the performance expectations during this timeframe, then the hybrid work arrangement can be extended on a permanent basis.
Rising above the barriers
The most common barriers associated with hybrid work include communication, collaboration, and performance. While these barriers may seem challenging at first, there are many proven ways to overcome them. Over time, these practices can become second nature in the workplace.
Communication - engaging employees remotely
There are several important aspects to communication in a hybrid work environment. First, the manager and remote employee must establish methods for communicating with each other on a regular basis. This can be by email, instant messaging, telephone, video chats and/or periodic one-on-one meetings in person or online.
Second, hybrid workers should never be perceived as “out of sight, out of mind” and need to be proactive about reaching out to management to consistently maintain “visibility.” Remote employees must also communicate regularly with coworkers, clients, and other stakeholders. Again, this can be accomplished through a variety of communication tools, depending on what works best for the organization.
Setting communication expectations
Effective communication builds mutual understanding and trust in the workplace, so communication expectations should be clearly defined and understood by everyone:
• Hybrid workers should have a visible online presence throughout the day and be responsive to internal and external inquiries within a certain amount of time.
• Managers should make themselves available to staff and periodically check in with team members to get updates about the status of assignments and determine if there are any challenges the employee needs help with.
• Team members should identify any communications issues that arise and work together to fine-tune communication methods and improve collaboration.
The intent is to make sure everyone is kept informed and that hybrid workers are not inadvertently left out of important communications. This may require rethinking how information is disseminated.
• The use of team emails can be an effective way to make sure everyone gets the same message, and it is less time-consuming than calling a meeting. That said, team members must take responsibility for making sure they stay on top of reading their emails so important communications do not get overlooked.
• Team meetings are also an important way for team members to connect with one another and to facilitate communication and collaboration. Meetings should be strategic and have a specific purpose. Having more meetings does not necessarily mean better communication.
• Periodic one-on-one meetings are also important for discussing specific issues that do not require the involvement of all team members.
Holding effective remote meetings
In a hybrid work environment, it is not likely that everyone will be in the office at the same time; hence, meetings will most likely include remote and in-person participants. With hybrid meetings, in-person team members gather in a designated area and use an online meeting platform to bring remote participants “into the room” using audio/video or by phone. To make the best use of everyone’s time, it is important to plan and conduct meetings as efficiently as possible by following a few simple steps:
1. Invest in the Right Technology. Use a stable online meeting platform that will meet the organization’s needs and make sure everyone knows how to use it. This will help avoid unnecessary delays during the meeting. Set up practice sessions until everyone is comfortable using the platform and its features, such as scheduling meetings, starting meetings, admitting participants, recording the meeting, and screen sharing.
2. Determine the Purpose of the Meeting. Have a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished during the meeting. Some of the most common types of meetings include status updates, problem solving, information sharing, decision-making, brainstorming, project kickoffs, team building, and debriefings.
3. Invite the Right Participants and Select a Date/Time that Works for Everyone. Make sure to invite key participants (those who must attend) and schedule the meeting based on their availability. Do not forget to account for different time zones when scheduling meetings. Send out meeting invitations so the date, time, and meeting link appear on the participant’s calendar. Also, send out meeting reminders in advance.
4. Prepare an Agenda and Distribute it in Advance. Many meetings are unproductive because there is either no agenda or the agenda has not been well thought out. Take the time to frame the discussion. Distribute the agenda in advance so participants can come prepared to discuss the agenda items.
5. Stay on Track. Keep the conversation focused on the purpose of the meeting and be mindful of the time so the meeting does not run long. If side-bar issues arise that require further discussion, make note of them, and assign them to someone to address or add them to a future meeting agenda.
6. Record the Meeting. Most online meeting platforms provide the ability to record the meeting. This can be useful for future reference and to share with team members who were unable to attend.
7. Capture Main Points and Action Items. After the meeting, share the main meeting points and any action items with all team members. Also, save these notes in a location that is accessible by the team.
8. Videoconference Rules of Etiquette. Share these tips with team members.
Managing Hybrid Teams
Managing a hybrid team does not require reinventing the wheel. What it does require is deliberate conversations and decisions around establishing new processes, policies, and actions. From engaging in collaborations and listening to feedback, to encouraging teamwork and trust to create a great hybrid culture.
Focused Strategy – A large-scale study conducted in 2020 showed that Work From Home decreased collaboration hours but increased focus hours. The benefit of a hybrid workplace is that employers can have the best of both options. Employees can spend time connecting and collaborating with one another when they go into the office and concentrate on work that requires focus when they work at home.
Creating a New Culture – Collaboration is not limited to the office. The plethora of social technology tools (Slack, Zoom, G-Suite, Microsoft Teams) makes it easy for staff to have informal conversations, work through issues, and collaborate from a distance. Consider including virtual team building activities like games, challenges, and exercises you can do with remote employees to help build stronger bonds and include time for socializing before or after meetings. Facilitating dialog about how your team can work together helps individuals understand each other better, strengthens relationships, and improves communication.
Manage by Results – Managing by results is an objective and effective way to evaluate employee performance regardless of where the work is performed. The focus is on setting clear expectations with employees in advance and evaluating performance based on the timely and accurate completion of work based on these expectations.
Use Measurable Deliverables – The use of measurable deliverables is also conducive to evaluating performance. Tasks should contain action items with clear outcomes and priorities, as well as realistic deadlines. Employees should be involved in developing these expectations and deliverables that will be used to evaluate their performance. The goal is to get the work done effectively and efficiently and setting unrealistic goals does not benefit anyone.
Address Performance Issues – If an employee’s performance declines under a hybrid work arrangement, it should be documented and addressed. Start by understanding the contributing factors that led to the decline in performance. The employee and supervisor may need to learn new ways to address communication and collaboration. Once the factors that led to performance decline have been identified, then expectations can be better defined and a timeline for improving performance can be established. If necessary, the hybrid work agreement can also be modified (change or reduce the number of remote days), or it can be suspended or terminated. Any action should be based on the provisions in the organization’s hybrid work policy and in consultation with human resources staff.