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Background details:

I am new to leadership on my team. I lead a group of 5 producing data analysis products for various customers.

Multiple members of the team are new to this career field and therefore engage in a lot of on the job learning. Those team members were brought on board because they have diverse backgrounds that complement the technical talent already on the team (UI/UX, background in customer areas, etc.)

Our company culture is an expectation of being in office regularly, with the flexibility to work from home (WFH) as needed. In the past this has meant WFH if you have a technician coming by, need to take care of kids or family issues, doctors appointment across town, feeling sick (no sick leave). The only mention of in office vs WFH in our company handbook is that advanced notice of absence is required to not unduly burden teammates.

Two members of the team regularly decide to WFH with no advanced notice. One of these two spends the day WFH multitasking between their duties to our team, and managing their LLC as a landlord. Again, our company handbook does not mention anything about outside employment, but my experience is most places have policies stating that job performance must not suffer due to alternate employment.

Main Question

I would like to make a more concrete WFH policy for my team. One of the team members came to me expressing concern for how often a couple of coworkers decide to WFH with no advanced notice. It was something that bothered me, but as there was no official policy I let it be. Our manager above me has made it clear to the team that the expectation is to work from the office most days.

I want these team members in office since they require so much on the job learning. This could be done remote, but I have found that in person has been more effective.

How should I approach making this policy? Since it's not in our company business rules, should I even attempt making a policy? If you have been in this situation, how would you approach writing this policy?

I appreciate the coaching/help.

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    Step one may be to clarify the company handbook. Does "absence" mean "not in office" or does it mean "not working"? If someone has the capability to do all their work functions from home, are they absent if they are working from home (or another remote location)? This may be important because some of the reasons for working from home - home maintenance, family emergencies - may not be known in advance. That is, someone could have one of these currently acceptable reasons but find out outside working hours, when the team wouldn't know until they started their day. Jan 30 at 13:48
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    Although privacy is important, if someone is regularly saying they need to WFH with no notice, I don't think it's unreasonable to request (and receive) explanations. In my experience, people who take large amounts of sick time may be asked to explain and provide documentation. This should probably be handled at a company level and not your team level. I can put some more details into an answer shortly. Jan 30 at 14:01
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    This feels very much like an "above your pay grade" problem. Escalate to your boss and/or HR. Jan 30 at 14:14
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    My favorite set up has been specific mandatory days in the office, with other days being more or less up to the person themselves. This has all people on site for meetings and collaborations at the same days, while allowing flexibility on the other days. It was still flexible enough that with prior notice AND an explanation, working from home during the "mandatory" day was acceptable, but as a baseline you were supposed to be there those days and give notice. Also I somewhat disagree this is above your paygrade, it very much seems like the teamleaders job to set up a healthy team environment.
    – Tony
    Jan 30 at 15:50
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    @Tony I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. It might be above me to make the final call, but I can start the process of fostering a healthier environment by bring it up and getting guidance. I have a feeling the final result will be somewhere in the middle, as it always is. Jan 30 at 16:01

1 Answer 1

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Without knowing the scale of your organization, I would strongly recommend against making your own policies without first consulting more senior leadership and/or the HR team. Having policies for your team, especially when they differ from organizational guidance or practices on other teams, could result in added friction with the broader organization.

I would first recommend getting guidance and clarification on the company handbook. Understanding the company-wide expectations (if any) for working remotely and the notice required is a good starting point. There are situations - maintenance technicians, family issues, illness - that may arise with little to no warning. Other situations - planned appointments - may be known in advance. And other situations - side jobs - may not qualify at all as a reason to work remotely, if a reason is necessary.

Depending on your company's policies, you may be able to ask for reasons for working remotely. If working remotely with no advance notice is against company policies and/or having a detrimental impact on your team, more senior management or HR can offer guidance on next steps, including if and when you can ask for reasons and what steps you can take when you feel flexibility is being abused.

Once you understand any global policies and what flexibility you have in determining team level policies and working agreements, only then can you draft such a policy. I would also recommend making it a collaborative effort with the team - working together to come up with the agreement rather than making it a mandate from management.

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