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Intent of Telework

Management Concerns

Building a Telework Program

Define Management Support

Assemble a Program Team

Determine Program Goals

Employee & Work Suitability

Workplace & Legal Issues

Policies & Forms

Equipment Decisions


Manager Participation

Telework Coordinator

Program Communication

Program Promotion

Manager Evaluations


There is general agreement among experts that not all employees make good teleworkers. The "selection" of employees for telework generally follows two steps. (1) Employees nominate themselves by completing an Employee Assessment Survey, or similar form, and applying for telework. (2) Managers review the application and self assessment, and interview the employee. Many experts feel that employees should work in the regular office environment for several months before they can apply for telework. This gives the manager time to get to know the employee and the employee time to get to know the organization and their coworkers.

The selection procedure varies by organization. In some large organizations, once the application is approved by the manager, it moves up the chain of command for further approval. In other organizations decisions are made entirely at the manager level. Whatever the procedure, it should be clearly spelled out in the Telework Policy and followed uniformly across the organization.

The task for the program team is to determine what qualities a teleworker should possess and how the selection procedure will work in your organization.

Above all, good teleworkers are responsible. They are eager to take the responsibility for working without direct face-to-face supervision and eager to prove they are trustworthy. Other personal characteristics include:

  • Ability to prioritize work, set deadlines and meet them.
  • Having good time management skills.
  • A record of reliability.
  • Being self-disciplined; will stay on task and not get distracted by family, TV, home activities, etc.
  • Ability to communicate effectively over the phone or electronically and will make themselves available to their manager and colleagues.
  • Know their work well enough to not require frequent assistance.
  • Depending on their work, having sufficient computer skills to not require frequent IT support.
  • Can work alone without feeling isolated or lonely.
  • Are not susceptible to overwork.

In addition to an employee's personal and work characteristics, there may be a number of requirements to meet in order to qualify for telework:

  • Teleworkers who are working from home will need a suitable place for a home office where they can work without distraction.
  • They should understand the telework policy (one of the goals of training or orientation).
  • They should represent the organization from home with the same level of professionalism you would expect in the regular work environment.
  • Teleworkers may have to give up their permanent office space or workspace in favor of shared workspace back at the office.
  • Teleworkers may be required to meet home-office safety standards and be willing to have their home office inspected.

Work Suitability: The program team should also give some thought to the work or tasks that are appropriate for telework - if for no other reason than to provide guidance to managers who are generally responsible for approving employee applications for telework.

Of course there are some jobs that are not suitable for telework, but it's often the case that employees who must be at the central worksite most of the time can telework at least occasionally.

Instead of thinking of positions or job titles, think of tasks. Every job is a collection of tasks; some suitable for telework and some not. Many employees have enough suitable tasks to be able to work from home at least one day a week. In general, suitable tasks include those that, for the most part, can be performed with minimal interaction with office colleagues and managers, and that don't require special equipment. Tasks that require concentration, like designing or writing, are often ideal for telework since there may be fewer disruptions at home than at work. Data entry, web searches, transcription and telephone calling can easily be done at home.

For many organizations, the real deciding factors in determining what work can be done from home are equipment and information security. If there is no computer at home, the teleworker is restricted to non-computer tasks, like reading, proofing, artwork, or telephone calls. If there is a computer, but no network, the teleworker is restricted to what can be emailed back and forth or taken home on a flash drive; the equivalent of taking home file folders. If the computer is fully networked with the office, the teleworker has few limits since they can always retrieve what they need and should be able to work at home just as they would at the office.

Information security may also limit what can be done at home. Work that is too sensitive to leave the building cannot be worked on at home. But, if the security precautions for the home office are equal to those at work, then most work can be done at home.

The toolkit's Technology Section expands on this discussion.

In the Toolkit

Employee Self-Assessment Form

Home Office Checklist

Evaluating a Request to Telework


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This page was last updated on May 23, 2009