Here we are in the midst of the COVID 19 illness and many companies are trying to decide how will they respond. It is important to not spread the illness but it is also important that work continues to get done. Many companies are contemplating; do we allow our employees to telework? Are their jobs even telework compatible? Telework or Not, that is the question.
My first thought is this, I wish more employers would take this opportunity to take a look at their policies regarding sick leave. Right now people are scared of a new illness but the reality is I have worked in environments for years where employees are expected to come to work even if they are ill and I have hated it. The other person brings their germs to the office infecting the rest of the office all because they are afraid to miss out on work. Many times people don’t have sick leave so they cannot afford to stay home. I beg the employers out there take this chance to reflect not just on COVID 19 and keeping employees safe, but on illness in general.
Now on to the telework issue. There are many jobs that can be done remotely if the employees are given sufficient access to technology to get their work done and still collaborate with their coworkers. Internet, Skype, Teams, and other collaboration tools exist that make it possible to get a job done and still connecting with the people you need to work with daily. In my job I am lucky that I get to telework one day a week even before this whole issue came up for review. The trick is giving employees access to the technology.
Some jobs are not suited to telework, like my friends job as a security guard. It is not like he can guard the building form home; he kind of needs to be on site to make rounds. I greatly appreciate the restaurant workers who provide food since I am a terrible cook; they kind of have to be at work too.
However, the telework issue is not as cut and dry as is the job eligible or is it not. The human factor has a lot to do with the decision as well. Not all people can handle working at home with the lack of structure and all the distractions that may be in their environment. Not everyone has a good place to set up and work.
Another factor is the technology I mentioned earlier. Not everyone has internet at home, a computer, and all the software needed. Companies would have to make some kind of investment in at least the basic equipment, like a laptop. The other issue is how do companies protect their work products in the telework environment. My company has a VPN set up already but other companies don’t have that in palace. Can you really expect them to get that up and running over night? What is the cost of setting that up compared to the cost of lost productivity if many employees have to be out sick? I don’t know the answer to that question.
I am lucky to have a home office but my coworker said she just sits on her couch and hunches over the laptop. Geez that is not comfortable or productive. I have another coworker who has the TV blasting loud in the background every time I try to call her. If I call at least mute your TV and when on a conference call MUTE YOUR MIC for heavens sake.
I wish I could telework more so that I don’t have to fight traffic and I think I am more productive at home because my office environment has a lot of distractions. I still answer my phone every time a customer calls to ask a question, I still write several documents a day. Besides the days where I have to teach, I don’t really need to sit in my cubicle to get the job done.
To be fair I get why my boss would hesitate to let us work from home more than one day a week because some people are less productive at home. But I say, lets do it. Build some good accountability policies and if the employee has access to the proper equipment, telework away.