Professional working remotely

Fairness for who gets to work from home?

As organizations continue to adapt to a challenging labor market and changing employee work location expectations, public entities are grappling with the long-term evaluation of who can work from home. Human Resources can drive standardization of position eligibility across the full organization as the foundation for equitable remote-work application for employee eligibility.

To implement the assessment, organizations can modify an approach used by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago to systematically assess work-from-home viability. The institute recently published a white paper using questions from the US Department of Labor Work Context Questionnaire and Generalized Work Activities Questionnaire.

The surveys focus on “work settings and possible hazards, the pace of work, and dealings with other people” and “work activities and how they relate to the position”. A sample of questions that public entities can use to assess remote work viability for all positions include:

  • How often does your current job require face-to-face discussions with individuals and within teams?
  • How frequently does your position require electronic email?
  • How much contact with others (by telephone, face-to-face, or otherwise) is required to perform your current job?
  • How often does your current job require you to work outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions?
  • How important is handling and moving objects to the performance of your current job?
  • How important is controlling, repairing or inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to the performance of your job?
  • How important is evaluating information to determine compliance with the standards to performance of your current job?
  • How important is thinking creatively to the performance of your current job?
  • How important is training and teaching others to the performance of your current job?
  • How important is coaching and developing others to the performance of your current job?
  • How often does your current job require that you be exposed to diseases or infection?

To implement a work –from home position assessment using the above questionnaires, organizations should follow the steps below:

1.      Survey development – develop the survey using the U.S. Department of Labor questionnaires as a base. Limit the survey to 10-15 questions to optimize responses. For each question, internally define the response level criteria that will completely disqualify a position from remote work, allow part-time remote work or allow for full time remote work. A single response that disqualifies remote work will fully disqualify the position, even if other tasks can be completed remotely.

2.      Survey distribution – select pilot departments to complete the survey for each position. Solicit feedback from both supervising managers and employees.

3.      Response aggregation – average the responses for each position and evaluate the responses against the remote work eligibility established in Step 1.

4.      Response review – assign direct supervisors to review the averaged responses for the positions they oversee to confirm agreement and solicit position-specific insights. Be mindful of conflicting responses for positions that serve in multiple departments. These positions may require new job description development if their function is truly dissimilar or alignment of work expectations vary across the departments.

5.      Assign work-from-home viability – identification will be at the position level to standardize position eligibility.

6.      Implementation – expand the position eligibility standardization across the organization. Once position eligibility is standardized, assess individual employee eligibility through consideration of department needs and employee performance.


Having a flexible work location, for even a few days a week, creates desired autonomy for employees’ work schedules, a more inclusive work environment, supports work-life balance and expands the potential recruitment pool. In short, it’s a win-win for both employees and employers.

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