Remote Work – How Fair is Your Organization?

I recently had three discussions about remote work in the same one-week period.

The first instance came up with a close friend. Yohan moved to the DC area during the pandemic because his wife got a new job here and his Charlotte-based company was allowing, and even encouraging, everyone to work remotely. Since relocating, Yohan has been promoted to the role of manager, and now his organization is calling all managers back to the office for a minimum of three days per week. Yohan has to decide if he will: 1) Get a new job; 2) Move back to Charlotte; or 3) Apply for a non-managerial position within his existing company.

The second person facing a remote-work predicament is a coaching client, Kathy, whose husband has accepted a job in another state. Kathy has been with the same university for the past 15 years where she has held a variety of administrative positions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has worked remotely 100% of the time, and her performance appraisals reflect that her work and work ethic are exemplary. Kathy plans to move to the other state with her husband, but the university has a requirement that employees must live within a 90-minute commute so that there will be no overnight expenses associated with in-person staff meetings. While this requirement exists, there have not been any in-person meetings during the past three years.

And finally, I am working with a biotech firm trying to fill a niche position that has been open for months since the need for this particular skill set is so great and the pool of qualified personnel is so small. While the organization has primarily an in-person work environment, their organization does have a few exceptions; however, everyone agrees that this position would work best if the incumbent were in-person. According to the recruiter, they now have three highly-qualified candidates, but none are willing to relocate for the position.

How should companies manage these situations which are no longer unique, and in fact, are now quite commonplace? While each organization and industry must decide what is best based on their own business needs, I was most impressed with the process one of clients uses to designate a position as fully or partially remote. It starts by asking a number of important questions, like: 

  • How specifically will the individual continue to meet the organization’s business needs?
  • How will the proposed remote work benefit the organization?
  • How will the individual contribute to mentoring colleagues and to creating the culture of the organization?
  • If the position has direct reports, what processes will the manager use to manage remotely?

Do you agree that these are valid concerns? Can you think of other questions that need to be answered in order to start or continue remote work in a post-pandemic world? 

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