Flexibility at Work: Working from Home for Novel Coronavirus

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WorkLife Live Daily Chats (10 – 11a.m.) – Join the WorkLife team including Jaimie Hutchison, Barbara Roberts, Maranda Holtsclaw, Tiana Carter, and your colleagues across the university as we connect with each other to offer support and guidance about WorkLife issues during this unique time.  Open to all staff, faculty, and post-docs.  Topics include family care, working from home, remaining connected, staying healthy, and supporting you!

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Some principles can be applied to these situations to make them effective, transparent and accountable:

  1. Mind the boundaries – What is the employer’s/employee’s responsibility for getting the work done? Be careful to have clear expectations for work done remotely, and not confuse personal with professional expectations. Professionalism is appropriate for the workplace, whether in person or by Zoom/Office 365 Teams Meeting. 
  2. Know what’s expected - Agree on criteria and standards for performance that reflect the in-office workload, methods, and functions as closely as possible, while exercising creativity and flexibility in methods of execution.
  3. Schedule a time to review - Check in on what’s working or not, for all parties, to facilitate everyone’s effectiveness, satisfaction and success; follow up so revisions can happen promptly and no one has to be anxious or irritated wondering about the process.

Information and resources:

Click here for a direct link to the video above.

Let’s bust some myths about working remotely or teleworking: 

  1. People don’t get as much done working at home: How do you know how much gets done at the office?  We tend to assume people are working their hardest when their bum is in their seat in the office. But what really tells the productivity tale is productivity, not just physical presence. By using the same expectations of productivity, and observable data, behavior and actions, how much one gets done at home can easily be ascertained. Are assignments done on time, deadlines met? Phone calls and emails can be counted; is the same amount of work being handled?  Questions and inquiries being answered? Is scheduling happening? Meetings can be attended by Zoom or Skype or FaceTime; is the employee logged in and contributing? When people are not distracted by office politics, interruptions, or other disruptions, they may actually get more done in less time, away from the office.
  2. Some jobs cannot be done remotely. True, but which ones, and why?  Is there critical equipment that is needed? (Labs, animal quarters, other.) Is there a critical in-person function that cannot be done by Zoom somehow?  What is that function, and why can it not be accomplished using technology to facilitate engagement?  This isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.  Some, but not all, jobs must be done in a specific location. Flex where you can, and be able to explain why when you can’t.
  3. It’s too distracting to work at home. That is for the employee to determine; it depends on your home situation. Some people have a home office with a door that closes. Some people work best at their kitchen table when no one else is there. It’s up to the employee to meet the criteria established (e.g., like that above), with or without distraction.  At the office, people go to the coffee machine for a minute or two, or walk to the nearest Sparty’s; maybe they can get their work done just as well with a washing machine break. 
  4. I’ve heard of people supposedly working from home, but then they are seen in the grocery store at 2:00 pm. How does that work?  The question is not, “Did you do your laundry or go to the store on work time?” The question is, “Did you get your work done on time?” It’s up to the employee to meet the requirement of the job from wherever they are, whenever they can be most effective. They might be seen picking up milk before dropping the kids off at sports, but do you also see them working at 9:00 at night to meet a deadline? No, you don’t, but the deadline is either met or it isn’t. Childcare and eldercare needs may have to be handled by others while working at home (don’t fire the in-home caregiver!) to ensure focus, concentration, availability, and productivity. These elements can be observed and evaluated to determine if the arrangement is working, without making assumptions or interfering with an employee’s home-life decisions.

Let’s begin by assuming the best about one another. Lay out clear expectations, set a time to follow up and then check in to see what’s working, what’s not and why, to facilitate Spartans “striving for the common good, with uncommon will” and creativity.

For further information and support developing and implementing flexible and remote work arrangements, please contact the WorkLife office at (517) 353-1635, or by email at worklife@msu.edu, and please visit our website on Your Workplace - Flexibility


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