As protocols for dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace change, leaders may start assessing their office team members for their ability to work remotely. We want to provide practical advice for managing communications, systems access, and general expectations for team members that transition to a remote-work assignment. Getting ready for changes in office dynamics and expecations is critical and should not be left to the last minute.
Remote work can be positive and productive with the right prepartion. Staff competencies with technology play a key role in everyone's success, and unit leaders have the unique opportunity to create highly successful scenarios with the proper application of technological resources. We encourage leaders of remote workers to see this as an opportunity for professional development by considering the following factors:
- Can the employee quickly learn new tools and skills that make them more adaptable and productive?
- Does the employee work to assist others through their challenges, offering help with their knowledge and experience?
- Can the employee complete work autonomously and independently?
- Is the employee able to follow guidelines and proper procedures without fail?
- Is the employee consistently available and quick to respond to inquiries?
- Does the employee require a high-degree of direction from the supervisor?
- Does the employee resist using new tools and acquiring new skills?
- Does the employee fail to complete objectives and use remote work and/or technology as an excuse?
- Does the employee expect or demand additional resources to complete remote work assignments?
A good test of an employee's ability is to have them learn new tools while still on the premise. Check to see if they can do this independently by picking one tool, learning it, and then reporting on how they think the tool will work for their department if implemented. Employees can pick a tool and self-train by going to www.hssu.edu/techtraining. This will also orient them to where to go to get additional training and skills.
Before an office moves to a remote-work model, there are several considerations. The following questions are designed to help teams get the most from a potential transition from office work to working remotely.
1. Do staff members have adequate resources to be effective in a home work environment? We recommend the following:
- a high-speed internet connection (5 megbits or higher)
- a secure, dedicated computer with at least a dual-core processor and 4 gigabytes of ram, with enough hard-drive space to download Micrsoft Office (using a shared, family computer is strongly discouraged)
- current, and up-to-date antivirus software installed
- access to a cell phone or landline
- quiet working space for at least 8 hours a day (during normal office hours--e.g. 8 am - 5 pm)
2. Has the team identified effective tools to use to communicate? We recommend the following:
- an office Zoom account for meetings managed by the department/unit head
- Skype as a primary or backup mechanism for real-time chatting
- Outlook installed directly on each team-member's computer
3. If the team uses Jenzabar CX, can they connect? We recommend the following:
- CX users should have a computer assigned to them from the university
- CX users should know how to connect to the university's CX installation using a Virtual Private Network provided by HSSU
4. Can team members follow the institution's security protocols? We recommend the following:
- Do not let employees remove sensitive information from the campus environment; this includes information like social-security numbers, birth dates, account numbers, or other personal and financial data.
- Do not let employees store institutional data in non-HSSU systems. Collecting, storing, sharing, and managing institutional data in personal accounts is prohibited. Avoid tools like Dropbox, Google Docs, or other similar systems that are not part of your HSSU account. You will find equivalents in the Microsoft Office Suite of tools, such as OneDrive, Sharepoint, Forms, Teams, etc.
- Remind employees to be vigilant about scams: emails, calls, compromised accounts, etc. This should be part of the daily conversation regarding personal practices and ensuring alert responses to unusual requests.
5. Are there clear daily objectives and job targets? We recommend that following:
- Check with the HSSU Department of Human Resources for recommendations on how to establish measures and expectations for remote workers.
WHEN WORKING FROM HOME MIGHT NOT BE THE RIGHT CHOICE
- Remote work is not for everyone. Do not consider remote work if the team member is unable to provide a connected, secure, and private environment at home.
- Do not consider remote work if the team member requires extensive supplies and equipment to perform their job functions (e.g. a cabinet full of files or a copy machine).
- Team members may wonder if the institution will directly provide them with internet or phone service. Unfortunately, HSSU cannot provide those kinds of services, nor will the institution offset normal charges the employee already incurs for their personal use of these services. Some internet service providers are offering free service for a limited period (see www.hssu.edu/charter as an example). Many phone providers are lifting data limits for celluar service. Encourage employees to explore these options if they wish to submit a request to work remotely.
- Remember, not everyone can work remotely and not every job function can be performed remotely. If a job function is not ammenable to remote work, do not try to force it; instead, focus on work that can create the most value for the institution and stakeholders. If you are keeping an office open, arrange desks to maintain recommended distance from other employees, and provide adequate supplies for sanitizing an area as recommended. Address the employee's concerns about the work environment and develop a plan for good co-worker communication to keep staff members connected.
WHERE EMPLOYEES CAN GET ASSISTANCE
At any time, an employee who will need assistance with home technology can contact the HSSU IT Services team by filling out the following form: