Telework distance: How close is too close?

Should employees who live close to the office be allowed to telework?

Anyone who lives in a metropolitan area knows what a headache the daily commute can be, whether you drive or take public transportation. The D.C. area has repeatedly made the list of worst congested areas, and last year ranked first, with drivers spending a yearly average of 74 hours stuck in traffic. 

Government transportation officials acknowledged the problem with congestion. But instead of urging more use of mass transit, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton promoted telework as way to alleviate the clogged roads. 

Telework not only leads to more productive and happy employees but it also saves energy, keeps costs down and helps save the environment, making it a “great win-win for all of us,” the secretary said.

But while it makes sense to allow telework for employees who have long commutes, should the same option be given to those who live near the office? A reader yesterday submitted an interesting quandary, asking others to comment on whether an employee who lives close enough to walk to work should have the telework option. 

“She lives less than a mile from work. She could walk. Would you allow her to telework when it's obvious she wants to be able to go to the store when she wants, watch a TV show when she wants, etc.? She is a good employee, but from everything I've read, the intent for all this to reduce pollution. She will drive more when teleworking and cause a bigger carbon footprint, simply because she can. Is this a good idea?” asked the reader.

Cindy Auten, general manager at Telework Exchange, suggested the reader look beyond the benefit of reducing pollution when evaluating telework and consider the bigger picture. Good questions to ask are: What other benefits will you recognize with telework? Can you reduce office space by having employees work remotely? And can you remain operational in the next weather-related emergency with teleworking employees?

“The ultimate question to ask is, will this employee be as or more productive when working remotely?” she said. “Oftentimes, employees find that a home office or remote location is more conducive to productivity. If the employee is a good employee, they will most likely be a productive employee regardless of where they are sitting. Focus on the work that they do, and the ‘where’ won't matter as much.

A reader responding to the question pointed out that the original poster had jumped to the wrong conclusion way too fast. “Your assumption that she ‘really’ wants to drive around town all day and watch TV is so old-school that, for me, it's a tip-off that management style in your office should be more closely examined. Isn't her performance objectively measured? If so, what's the problem? Why be so judgmental about the motives of an admitted ‘good employee?’” The reader suggested setting up a trial telework arrangement to see if it would work for the reader’s team.

Another reader suggested that an employee living close to the office shouldn't be an automatic disqualifier and pointed out that the lack of trust was a bigger issue.

“What's troubling is that you say that she is a good employee, yet you seem to indicate that you couldn't trust her to work if she was teleworking,” that reader said. “Are you evaluating her performance now through results? If so, with a strong telework agreement and open discussion about expectations from the get-go, should be no change in the evaluation methodology.’

Do you agree with the original poster who hints that telework should be primarily for those with long commutes? Is “pollution reduction” a good reason to push for telework? Do the reasons even matter if the employee has a track record of being productive and reliable?

NEXT STORY: Upcoming FCW Feature

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.