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GUEST BLOGGER: Trusting the Teleworkers

by Mark Hennes | Nov 06, 2017

Quote of Note
"You have to empower your employees to make their own choices and trust that they will make the right ones."
- Dara Khosrowshahi, Businessman

Our guest blogger this week is Holly Brzycki, the Supervisor of Online Learning at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit. She oversees the Capital Area Online Learning Association, a regional online learning program for 107 school districts and Intermediate Units in PA. Holly has been in education for 21 years in the roles of teacher, curriculum director, principal and supervisor in traditional and cyber schools. She has spent the past 13 years dedicated to online learning, merging her passions for education and technology.

This Wednesday, I’m not coming to work.

Or to put it more precisely: this Wednesday, I’m not driving to work. Instead, I’ll log in and work from my home office.

Although new to the education community, working from home, or remote working, has become more and more mainstream in today’s workplace. The reasons behind this change in the traditional work environment are varied and range from a lack of office space, to a desire to create a more appealing work environment, to a need to attract and keep quality employees. Making this shift is not easy for some leaders and really entails trusting and knowing your staff, establishing clear guidelines and maintaining open communications.

The CAIU officially started allowing telework in 2016. This change was applauded by many employees and was instituted as a means to increase employee satisfaction as well as create more office space. The reaction from Supervisors and Leadership was mixed. Some leaders were not too happy with the idea fearing a loss of control and supervision and a drop in productivity. Other leaders felt that it was a move in the right direction as we challenge the notion of whether an employee is more efficient and effective sitting in a traditional office space or the modern alternative of working remotely.

At the start of this academic year, I began working from home every Wednesday. I decided to make this choice because my job is entirely online and remote working helps me balance my life. On the days I work from home, the few minutes I would normally spend speaking to my peers in the office kitchen, I instead, complete a quick house chore. These few extra moments I use towards house work allows more balance in my home/work life. My Wednesdays are loaded with virtual meetings as well as time dedicated to special projects. I find I am much more productive working from home because I have fewer interruptions and I am less stressed due to a better home/work balance.

The CAIU spent a year developing a work from home policy. We have clear policies, but these also allow for freedom and leadership discretion. Here are some areas to consider when thinking about remote working opportunities.

1. Value: Being able to work from home is a very valuable perk to many employees, including me. I feel respected and trusted by my superiors because they trust me to work regardless of location. This opportunity enhanced my satisfaction and enjoyment of working at the CAIU. Please remember a simple opportunity can greatly increase your employee’s satisfaction, which could lead to less turnover. Knowing that the employee is entrusted with such a privilege and is satisfied, helps the employee want to work harder

2. Expectations: Having clear directions around attire, communication, work priorities, and child care helped me easily transition to working from home. Your staff need very clear guidelines on how they should conduct themselves when considering working remotely. Doing so helps both of you have clear standards and expectations. This also lays the groundwork for harder conversations if problems arise. However, do not get caught up in creating endless policies that make the opportunity unattractive. Inc.com posted an interesting article around simplifying the number of remote working policies in order to create a less chaotic experience for employees and leadership. The bottom line, the article states, is that there should only be three rules: 1. Get the work done, 2. Be Available and 3. Over communicate.

3. The right fit: I am sure a few people come to mind that might not be a good fit for remote working. However, if that person is part of my staff, I should be having those hard conversations anyway if there are problems with work productivity and trust within the office setting. An employee that is a management challenge will continue to be so unless addressed. In the end, a good employee is productive no matter where they work and the opposite is true for struggling employees. Location does not fix or cause a work problem.

4. Let go of control: I know that letting go can be hard for some leaders. However, employees do not want to be micromanaged. You will need to trust the relationship that you have built with your employees. Give them the freedom to demonstrate that they can work regardless of their setting. Talk with the employee if you have reservations about their remote working. Set up a plan together that builds trust, maintains accountability and allows the employee to work toward their goal. Your employees will be much happier having flexibility in their work environment.

With the advancement of technology, a large portion of our work is performed online and does not require us to be physically present in an office or cubicle. As long as we have an internet connection and modern technology, our location does not affect our work efficiency or quality. The benefits to employer and employee can be mutual and can increase employee satisfaction. Please feel free to reach out to CAIU leadership to learn more about our telework practices and policies.


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Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CAIU, its directors, or its staff.