Supervisor Checklist for Supporting Telecommuting

Considerations for Unit Leaders

Supervisory approval is necessary to telecommute or work from home. Supervisors should be flexible in allowing employees who are able to do so to work from home.

Not all requests to telecommute can be approved due to the nature of the job. Decisions should be based upon whether or not an employee’s responsibilities can be performed from home, whether they have the equipment and technology available to fully perform their job away from campus. 

Unit leaders are expected to:

  • Strongly encourage telecommuting, if at all possible. 
  • Provide as much flexibility as possible to employees telecommuting, including employees’ need to balance work with family responsibilities.
  • For general university guidance on telecommuting, please visit the HR Telecommuting Guidelines for on Campus Positions in Emergency or Adverse Situations. Note that no formal agreement is required during this period.
  • For those who cannot telecommute due to lack of technology or requirements of their position:
    • Create a safe onsite work environment with emphasis on social distancing and following all other recommended preventive actions.
    • Provide as much support and appreciation as possible to these employees as they are subject to risks that telecommuters are not.

Supervisor Checklist

Telecommuting works best when employees and supervisors communicate clearly about expectations. The following checklist will help you establish a foundation for effective teamwork, continued productivity, and service to the IU community.

Understand relevant guidelines. Review the following telecommuting-related guidance on the IU HR emergency or adverse situations telecommuting webpage. Supervisors should verify that their employees understood this information.

Review technology needs and resources. Identify technology tools staff use in their daily work and determine whether the resources will be accessible when working from home and ensure employees know how to access your team’s local technical support should they need assistance.

  • Ensure employees know how to access the IU network and other tools you regularly use.
    • Determine which platform(s) you will use to communicate as a team, clarify expectations for online availability and confirm everyone has access to the technology tool(s) and support resources. Use Skype or Teams or another instant messaging client to stay connected to colleagues.

Review work schedules. Telecommuting sometimes get confused with flex work. Be clear about your expectations with employees for maintaining their current work schedule or if you are open to flexible scheduling based on employee needs.

Draft a work plan. Review the questions below with staff and work through answers together.

  • What routine responsibilities/tasks cannot be fulfilled while working remotely and how will it impact operations or other people? What are ways to reduce the impacts?
  • What routine responsibilities/tasks require regular communication and collaboration with others? Proactively contact each partner to confirm how you will communicate while everyone is working remotely.
  • Oftentimes employees experience fewer interruptions while telecommuting. Are there any special projects or tasks that you can advance while working remotely?
  • What events or meetings are scheduled during the time in which the temporary telecommuting arrangement is in place? Will they be postponed or canceled, or will they take place using technology? What follow-up needs to occur due to postponements or cancellations?

Make a communication and accountability plan. Supervisors should tell employees how often they should send updates on work plan progress and what those updates should include. Supervisors should also communicate how quickly they expect the employee to respond while telecommuting and the best ways for the employee to contact the supervisor while working remotely.

  • If you normally make daily rounds to visit employees at their desks, you can give them a call during this period. Maintain team meetings and one-to-one check-ins, altering the schedule if needed to accommodate any alternative schedules that have been approved.
  • Conduct regular check-ins. Start each workday with a phone, video or instant message chat. Your employees will be eager for connection and information during the disruption and the structure will help everyone create a positive routine. Every other day or weekly may be fine, so long as you are in contact frequently enough that your employees are in sync with you and/or with one another.

Be positive. A positive attitude toward telecommuting and a willingness to trust employees to telecommute effectively is key to making such arrangements successful and productive. Telecommuting presents an opportunity for managers to become better supervisors. Instead of focusing on how many hours your employees are working, re-emphasize a focus on measuring results and reaching objectives—regardless of work arrangement. The employee’s completed work product is the indicator of success, rather than direct observation. By focusing on the employee’s work product, managers will improve their organizational abilities and their own skill in managing by objectives.

Debrief after normal operations resume. Employees and supervisors should review work plans when work returns to normal, assess progress on the employee’s work plan and prioritize any unresolved or new work that resulted from temporary operational disruption.