Q. We have a bunch of employees who telework. One manager wants to follow the approach Yahoo took last year and eliminate teleworking. He believes that employees are not actually working and that their inability to see the whites of each other’s eyes is limiting their collaboration. He’s made some comments in the past that make me think he really worries that female employees are spending work time caring for their children from home. What should we do?
A. Don’t let your manager’s views dictate your company’s approach on teleworking. Despite Yahoo’s approach, many companies embrace teleworking as a business model and it is probably not going to go away.
If you have policies that allow teleworking but you want to see increased collaboration, you can give employees tools to make that happen. Schedule periodic in-person meetings or provide more face time through technology tools like Skype, Facetime and social media platforms.
There are also ways to make sure employees are actually being productive. You can set regular check-in meetings (in person or via teleconference) that allow a manager to measure work output and quality. You can measure expected work output. In addition, there is even technology to track work time done on computers.
Regularly managing performance this way may change you manager’s mind about telework.
Finally, address your manager’s apparently biased views of female teleworkers. While it is legal to prohibit all employees—both men and women—from doing nonwork tasks (like child care) while teleworking, making assumptions based on female stereotypes could lead to discrimination claims. Ensure your manager’s concerns are based on concrete evidence, not gender stereotyping. Train him on the company’s nondiscrimination obligations.
Megan L. Anderson is an attorney with Gray Plant Mooty’s Employment Law Practice Group in Minneapolis. Concentrating her practice in employment law counseling and litigation, she regularly advises employers and provides training on a variety of employment law issues. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (612) 632-3004.