My company has both remote and on-premise employees. We started as an on premise org, but began building a large remote workforce. I now have directs that are interested in becoming remote employees. They want to relocate.

I want to keep this as a discretionary decision for me, rather than allow it to become policy. I have a high-performer, recently hired, who I'd rather retain than lose, because he wants to move to another state. I asked him to keep the terms and conversation about going remote confidential, and not share how this was worked out with the team. I did not want to set a precedent/process for becoming a remote employee, and there is not a policy published by HR. On the other-hand, I had a problematic performer who I was not OK allowing to go remote. Senior management was also not ok with this. He ended up leaving, after raising a lot of hell.

I'm looking at another employee that I'm expecting to be asked if he can go remote. He has expressed desire to relocate casually in the past, and just learned about my high-performer becoming remote. I'd rather this person not become a remote employee.

Advice on how to manage this?

SteveAnderson's picture
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Hi there,

My organization is aligned similarly with both remote employees and those in a centrally located office.  The key thing for me in allowing any employee the option of remote work (whether it is a day a week from their house an hour away or from across the country) is whether or not their performance (including behaviors!) is good.  For the third employee in this case, you don't mention whether he is a top performer, a poor performer, or somewhere in between and you don't mention why you don't want them to go remote.  That information will help, but in the absence, here's how we handle it.

Our organization is a little bit different because we typically hire people into either field or headquarters-based positions.  We've really only had one person ask to go from HQ to being remote.  Regardless, part of the hiring process for our field-based positions is a discussion about the nature of remote work.  You could use some of that in making decisions for your organization.  Here's a sample of the discussion topics/questions:

  • Have you ever worked remotely?
  • If so, what were the challenges?  Either way, what challenges do you anticipate?
  • How do you intend to separate work from home life?
  • With the quality of communication going down, how do  you compensate for that?
  • How do you intend to set up your home working situation?  Do you have logistics in place for reliable telecom?
  • Do you have an issue with operating in the same time zone as the central office?

It's certainly not all-inclusive but a conversation focused around those questions will certainly shed light on whether or not this employee is suited to be a remote employee.  I myself work remotely so I'm familiar with some of the pitfalls and can usually dig deeper into each of those questions.  The biggest thing I would watch out for with any employee wanting to make the switch to being remote is whether or not they are effective communicators.  If you already have to cajole them to get status updates or if meetings with them feel like you're pulling teeth to get them to talk, that problem will become worse by 10-fold when they have the option to choose whether or not to take your call or return your email.

Like I said above, it's hard to make a recommendation without knowing about the employee or your rationale but I hope this helps.

mrreliable's picture

In my experience the biggest factor that determines success or failure of working remotely is the level of distraction at home. When I started in my profession over 20 years ago I began working from home.

We had young children and worked it out so I'd watch them during the day, then I'd go to work after my wife got home from her job. The first day went great. The second day she asked me to watch the kids for an extra half hour so she could run an errand. The third day was an hour delay, the fourth day an hour and a half. The fifth day I went into the office and asked to work onsite, which was approved.

Fast forward to being in a supervisory position. We had a couple of people working remotely, but most were on site. I had a high producer who wanted to work from home. I agreed, and it was a disaster. It wasn't long before this employee asked to come back and work on site. She had the same experience I did. No matter how diligent and focused the employee may be, family members are not always committed to make it work. Many times they just don't understand how it has to work.

I know there are lots of people who are very successful working from home, but in our case we made a company policy against it.