As businesses across the country continue reopening and the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 cases looms, employers face difficult decisions regarding work-from-home arrangements. Some employers are opting to extend work-from-home protocols until next year. Others are asking all employees to return to the office, and some are offering a hybrid of the two models.

For employers that are either reopening in phases or allowing some employees to continue to work from home during the pandemic, the question of who should continue working remotely becomes a pressing issue. There are circumstances to consider when determining which employees should continue to work from home during the pandemic.

Review roles and responsibilities

While working from home may have been a necessity at the peak of the pandemic, it may not have been the ideal format for specific roles. When considering which employees should continue or move to a work-from-home arrangement, it’s essential to evaluate their particular roles and responsibilities.

For example, if the employee is in a customer-facing role or in a position that requires office attendance, working from home may not be feasible as the public health crisis continues. Be sure to evaluate each role objectively and thoroughly to ensure due diligence and document reasons supporting the role’s necessity for in-office work.

If the employee can fulfil their responsibilities regardless of their physical location, they may be a candidate to work from or continue working from home.

Case-by-case evaluation

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected each one of your employees differently. Some may have or be living with a family member with a health condition that puts them at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Some employees may be juggling child care or other caregiving responsibilities, requiring them to work from home. Others may not be comfortable returning to the office.

Remember to remain as flexible as possible with employees during these difficult and uncertain times. Consider surveying employees to gauge comfort levels with returning to the office. Also, consider implementing a formalized process in which employees with individualized concerns about returning to the office, or who have a desire to remain working from home, can submit a request. These requests should be reviewed objectively and promptly. In some cases, alternate working schedules, solutions, or paid time off may need to be leveraged if working from home is not feasible.

There may be some employees who would prefer to work from the office. Be sure to hear these requests and respond accordingly. Let these employees know about any health screening, face-covering requirements, and other controls that have been adopted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the office.

Leave it up to departments

Department heads and managers may have the most insight into how employees perform remotely, and allowing departments to decide who can or can’t continue to work from home may be a good option.

As long as productivity isn’t impacted and deadlines are being met, it might make sense for employees to work from home. Additionally, if a specific department can do their job remotely and employees feel safer at home, it might be sensible to allow entire departments to start or to continue working from home.

Be transparent

To avoid creating uncertainty and resentment among employees, be sure to communicate your process and decisions regarding employees working remotely or going back to the office.

When employees feel like you’re transparent and open, it can help them rationalize your decision. Communication and transparency are essential during these uncertain times.

For more information, please visit our  COVID-19 Resource Page.