Government positions working from home

Authored by Allison LeMay, MPA, IPMA-CP

The COVID-19 pandemic forced communities to operate in a work-from-home capacity. As we continue to adapt, organizations are beginning to grapple with the long-term evaluation of who can work from home in the future. 

Communities can modify an approach recently used by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago to systematically assess the work-from-home viability of their positions. The institute recently published a white paper using questions from the U.S. Department of Labor Work Context Questionnaire  and Generalized Work Activities Questionnaire to assess positions’ viability to work from home. 

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 organization leaders can use to assess remote work viability for all positions, including field and office positions, include:

  1. How often does your current job require face-to-face discussions with individuals and within teams?
  2. How frequently does your current job require public speaking (one speaker with an audience)?
  3. How frequently does your position require email?
  4. How much contact with others (by telephone, face-to-face or otherwise) is required to perform your current job?
  5. How often does your current job require you to work outdoors, exposed to all weather conditions?
  6. How important is controlling, repairing or inspecting equipment, structures or materials to the performance of your job?

To establish a work-from-home position assessment using the above questionnaires, 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 levels that will 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 a sample of individuals to complete the survey for each position. Take into consideration employees who hold the same position but may perform different job functions. 
  3. Response review – assign direct supervisors to review the averaged responses for the positions they oversee to confirm agreement and solicit position-specific insights.
  4. Assign work-from-home viability – remember that remote work viability is for the position and not the employee. Tie employee eligibility to performance and supervisor approval.

Having a flexible work location, for even a few days a week, creates a more inclusive work environment, helps with work-life balance and expands the recruitment pool. In short, it’s a good policy to support your organization’s long-term recruitment and retention initiatives for workforce development planning

For more information or help with work-from-home survey development or implementation, connect with our Public Sector Advisory consultants.

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