This week on the Ask a Manager podcast, I talk with a manager who gives her staff a lot of flexibility when it comes to working from home, and she’s concerned one employee is using that flexibility in a way that isn’t quite working for their team. Here’s the letter she sent to me, and you can listen to our discussion about it on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or Anchor (or here’s the direct RSS feed). This episode is 19 minutes long.
Our company doesn’t have a work from home policy; it’s up to manager discretion. I lead a small team that requires a lot of “face time” with senior leaders, but I try to be as flexible as possible. There’s no “policy” for when you can and cannot work from home. It’s up to the employee, and I just ask they join any meetings remotely and give me a heads up if they aren’t going to be in the office.
One of my employee works from home a lot. It’s more than once per week, on average 6 times per month. It’s often at the last minute, although half the time, it could have been a planned thing (like child care coverage while husband is traveling for work). The other half of the time, it’s an unplanned thing (like car troubles or a sick child).
I work from home approximately 2 days/month, typically planned a week or more in advance. The other two members are about the same. Of all of us, this employee is the least senior in terms of experience.
Here are my issues: (1) I feel like a lot of this could be planned in advance, but the employee is disorganized. I prompt her (and the entire team) to share upcoming PTO, work from home, etc. in our weekly team meeting and our weekly 1:1 meeting, but there’s still a lot of last minute remote work. (2) There are perceptions that she isn’t around very often and therefore is difficult to get a hold of. Since most people do NOT work from home, colleagues often stop by and see she’s not there and assume she’s out. (3) It’s hard for me to gauge how productive this employee is when working from home. She tends to hit deadlines, but I feel she may be purposefully setting longer time tables. (4) When I collected feedback for her review, people mentioned unreliability and disorganization. Her work is okay, but there’s room for improvement. And, I want to give her *more* work, but worry that she’ll be unable to stay on top of it all.
I don’t want to be punitive – this isn’t a problem YET, but I worry it could be. And I want to give her more responsibility, but the erratic schedule could be problematic. How can I address this before it becomes a concrete issue, but still allow the valuable flexibility?
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And a transcript of last week’s show is here.