2.05 Remote Work

Policy No. 2.05

POLICY: Berklee recognizes that remote work may pose advantages for both Berklee and its staff, including increased productivity and performance, enhanced employee recruitment and retention, relief of on-campus space constraints, cost reduction, environmental sustainability, crisis response, and greater work-life balance. The intent of this policy is to provide procedural guidance to staff and their supervisors when a remote work arrangement is necessary or being requested.

Remote work is not an entitlement or Berklee-wide benefit. Although some positions may require remote work, it is typically a voluntary work arrangement determined by supervisors and area vice presidents in consultation with Human Resources. Eligible staff perform their job responsibilities at a site other than their onsite work location during regularly scheduled work hours for an indefinite or finite period.

Eligibility

All staff in good performance standing whose positions readily lend themselves to remote work are eligible.

Identifying Appropriate Positions

Departments should consider the tasks and functions associated with a position before considering whether a specific staff member is a good candidate for a remote work arrangement. Positions that lend themselves to remote work are generally those that require independent work that can be performed autonomously.

Certain positions or responsibilities do not lend themselves to remote work. If a position has a mix of tasks, the department can consider approving a remote work arrangement, but limit it to only the tasks that can be successfully accomplished.

There are some other key considerations when evaluating a position for remote work, including the following:

  • Do the essential duties require ongoing access to equipment, materials, and files that can only be accessed on Berklee’s property?
  • Do the essential duties require extensive face-to-face contact with supervisors, other employees, clients, or the public on Berklee’s property?
  • Do the essential duties require extensive time in meetings or performing work on Berklee’s property?
  • Do security issues require the essential duties to be conducted on Berklee’s property?

“Extensive” can be defined as a significant majority, for example, greater than 75 percent. If any of the answers to the above questions is affirmative, remote work might not be appropriate.

Identifying Appropriate Individuals

Factors to consider when assessing a staff member’s suitability for remote work include the following:

  • Does the staff member have effective written and verbal communication skills?
  • Can the staff member work independently and without constant supervision?
  • Is the staff member highly productive?
  • Does the staff member have strong problem solving capabilities?
  • Is the staff member well organized?
  • Is the staff member able to work within timelines and meet deadlines?
  • Can the staff member handle being socially isolated?
  • Can the staff member work in an environment with little structure?
  • Is the staff member overall a good performer?

There may be other relevant criteria as well.

Other Success Factors: Supervisory Traits

Engaging in a remote work agreement, whether as a supervisor or a staff member, requires certain knowledge, skills, and abilities to be effective. Supervisors should possess general characteristics that can facilitate a successful remote work arrangement, such as the following:

  • Comfortable allowing staff to work autonomously
  • Effective written and verbal communication skills (as communications on remote work days will not be face to face)
  • Flexibility and willingness to explore new ideas
  • Effective listening skills
  • Strong problem solving capabilities

In addition, there are some other items to consider:

  • How often do you monitor the staff member’s work performance: daily, weekly, or at other intervals?
  • Do you have a reliable, objective way of measuring the amount of time the staff member dedicates to work?

Regular, Occasional, and Emergency Remote Work

There are three types of remote work: regular, occasional, and emergency.

Regular Remote Work

With regular remote work, the staff member will have an established, predictable schedule, for example, Tuesdays and Thursdays, or every other Wednesday. Another form of regular remote work could be for an entire work week, either ongoing or for a limited period of time. In any case, the regular remote work days and the duration of the remote work arrangement, if for a limited period of time, are identified and agreed to at the outset. They may be changed upon agreement between the staff member and the department.

Occasional Remote Work

Occasional remote work is characterized by situations when a staff member will work remotely sporadically, generally on an as-needed basis. Examples of occasional remote work are instances when a staff member might not have transportation to work or times of extremely inclement weather. Because occasional remote work will only occur once in a while, departments should keep that in mind when evaluating the staff member and the position’s suitability.

To handle an occasional remote work scenario, the department and staff member can establish the parameters of the remote work arrangement in advance, such as identifying the remote work location and specifying how often the staff member is expected to check email and return phone calls on remote work days. The staff member and the department then agree to a protocol for how to implement the remote work arrangement when the need arises. For example, the staff member and department can agree that as soon as there is an anticipated need for a remote work day, the staff member should notify the supervisor and secure approval to work remotely for that day or days.

Emergency Remote Work

 

When contemplating business contingency plans, departments should consider that emergency remote work is a means of providing for fulfillment of important functions. Due to the nature of certain crises and the ultimate need to maintain business continuity, it may be appropriate to relax the criteria within the policy and these guidelines. Certain items that may be evaluated more flexibly include suitability, work site, and eligibility, when absolutely necessary.

Accountability

A staff member is expected to be performing their work during remote working hours, although reasonable amounts of time for rest and/or meal breaks is permitted. If it is found that a staff member is not performing work during the remote working hours, the remote work privileges may be revoked, and they may be subject to corrective action.

Managing Performance

Managing performance breaks down into three main categories:

  • What expectations do you have for the staff member?
  • How will you assess if they are meeting expectations?
  • How will you provide feedback?

Expectations

In setting expectations for those who are working remotely, follow the same approach you would in any other supervisory situation. Ensure that the standards are specific, measurable, accepted by you and the staff member, and realistic. Review their current performance standards, and determine if they are relevant for a remote working environment. If not, modify them so they are salient to the situation. Supervisors who need assistance with developing or revising standards may contact their HR business partner.

Assessment

Performance should be assessed against the expectations that are set forth prior to a remote work arrangement. Because remote work does not lend itself to in-person observation, managers should focus on results-based assessment. One method to accomplish this is to set up regular discussions during which the manager and staff member can review completed items and the status of items in progress.

Feedback

Regardless of how work is documented, regular feedback is vital to the success of the remote work arrangement. This is especially true when problems arise. Problems should be addressed and resolved quickly before they escalate to the detriment of the remote work arrangement.

Give feedback as you would with any staff member. It should be direct and offer examples of where the staff member is meeting, or failing to meet, expectations. Feedback should also give the staff member an opportunity to seek clarification. In addition to feedback at regular intervals, departments should continue to carry out applicable annual performance appraisals that may fall during the remote work time frame.

Aspects and Terms of Remote Work

Remote work is not intended to permit staff to have time to attend to personal business, such as performing outside employment or providing regular dependent care. If a department is concerned that persons in need of primary care who are present in the alternate work location will interfere with the staff member’s ability to perform work during the remote working hours, the staff member may be asked to demonstrate that another individual will be present to provide the care. The department may request whatever reasonable verification it finds acceptable, such as a good faith representation by the staff member, a credible representation from the care provider, or other confirmation of the care.

Remote work may be appropriate in a situation where a staff member is incapacitated and therefore restricted in the ability to travel to and from or get around the work location, but is still otherwise able to perform their job functions. However, remote work should not be used to avoid placing the staff member on a leave of absence to which they are entitled and have requested.

While a request to work remotely in a situation such as this may be carefully considered, departments should exercise caution in soliciting a remote work arrangement in these cases. Human Resources can provide further consultation in evaluating these situations.

Work Site

An adequate home office or other office is the preferred alternate work location for regular remote work arrangements. It is not advisable for staff to regularly work remotely from public places. Nevertheless, it is recognized that in certain situations, such as occasional or emergency remote work, it may not be possible to work out of a home or other office. In those situations, staff are expected to take all necessary steps to ensure that the remote site is secure.

Trial Periods

A trial period can be a valuable tool to assess the feasibility of a proposed remote work arrangement. In regular remote work situations, a trial period of 60–90 days, depending on the frequency of remote work, is an ample amount of time. In occasional remote work situations, it may be necessary to have at least one or two instances of working remotely to sufficiently demonstrate the staff member's ability to successfully perform work remotely.

Time off

Those working remotely should report their time off as they would on a non-remote work day or in a non-remote work arrangement. If a pattern of unscheduled absences in connection with remote work days, becomes noticeable and the department suspects abuse, the department should address the situation with the staff member in consultation with Human Resources. If the situation is not resolved, the remote work privilege may be revoked, and the staff member may be subject to corrective action.