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Remote work and performance management

On this page
  • Introduction
  • State HR guidance: Performance managing teleworkers
  • Proactively address performance concerns
  • Provide notice before withdrawing approval to telework
  • Address agency concerns
  • Telework designation and operational needs
  • Caring for dependents


Although transitioning to widespread remote work was challenging, we now know that it has not resulted in reduced productivity. In fact, in most situations, we have noticed an increase in productivity. We also know that most employees are highly satisfied with their current mobility and want to continue having the flexibility to telework in the future (Source: State Employee Engagement Survey). While we acknowledge that certain types of work and engagement cannot be accomplished remotely, a telework arrangement that includes some days on-site and some days remote can most often meet business and employee needs.

As the state plans to sustain a hybrid workforce, many agencies are requesting clarity from State HR on how performance management should be addressed for remote workers in the long term. At this point, we do not see evidence that performance management need look substantially different for teleworkers than for on-site workers. But there are some specific considerations agencies and supervisors should keep in mind for managing a remote workforce.

State HR guidance: Performance-managing teleworkers

We have learned that with thoughtful performance management, appropriate tools, and sufficient organizational support, teleworkers can be successful. We strongly recommend that executive branch agencies adopt the following long-term approaches to managing the performance of their workforce when working remotely. We encourage all other agencies, including the legislative and judicial branches, higher education institutions, boards, commissions and offices to adopt this approach as well, whenever possible, and in alignment with their business needs. 

Proactively address performance concerns

Frequent and intentional communication between supervisors and teleworking employees is necessary to make remote work successful. Expectations for the employee should be clear, documented, and revisited often to ensure the employee and the supervisor have a shared understanding of the employee’s performance, their strengths, and any areas where they need to improve.

Employees and supervisors should also discuss options for a work schedule that will allow employees to meet their job duties and to exercise flexibility while teleworking to take care of any non-work needs such as caring for dependents (of any age). Supporting employees and providing adequate notice when changes are made to the schedule or expectations is a critical part of this work.

Before making the final determination that a teleworking employee is not able to effectively accomplish their assigned work remotely, the supervisor should discuss and document performance concerns with the teleworking employee just as they would with an on-site employee. The exact process of performance management is established in WAC, CBAs and agency policy.  Generally, employees should have the opportunity to address performance concerns before a final decision to withdraw approval is made. Such a process should be discussed when a telework plan is established. 

Provide notice before withdrawing approval to telework

The employer should provide as much notice as possible before withdrawing approval to telework. We recommend providing at least 30-days' notice. 

This notice period is not intended to apply in situations where occasional or infrequent operational needs of the employer require the employee to return on-site.

Agencies are strongly encouraged to make permanent recall of employees a thoughtful and well planned out process. Employers are encouraged to set out required on-site days/hours in the telework agreement in advance and should provide as much notice as possible for those occasional requests to return on-site, recognizing that making changes to a routine without notice is disruptive to an employee’s life. Supervisors and employees should discuss how these situations will be handled by both parties in advance, when establishing the telework agreement.

Address agency concerns

Agencies may be concerned about the need to provide notice prior to withdrawing approval to work from home. Providing notice is intended to give the employee enough time to make any personal arrangements necessary to allow them to return on-site not to impair the ability of the business to respond appropriately to an urgent business need.

In order to reap the benefits of remote work for both the employer and the employee, agencies need to consider the realities that continue to face employees and employers. Providing reasonable notice and working through performance concerns with employees before making changes to a remote work arrangement are reasonable steps to take. They allow employees to depend on their employer’s commitment to supporting mobility and a human-centered work environment. They also increase the likelihood that employees will remain with the agency and to help build a positive reputation of the agency as an employer of choice. 

We have learned that offering remote work options can help to diversify the workforce and expand access to jobs. Conversely, the State faces considerable risk of increased turnover, reduced productivity and diminished workforce participation if does not continue supporting telework for employees. Allowing and supporting successful remote work benefits the employee and the employer. It's a way to ensure operational resilience and higher rates of retention for the state workforce.

Flexibility and support matter

Offering employees supportive options for more flexibility, including remote work, is intended to make it possible for people to continue to work, rather than taking leaves of absence or leaving the workforce entirely — a goal that diminishes inequities and benefits employees, agencies, and those we serve.

Telework designation and operational needs

Nothing on this page is intended to reduce the employer’s authority to determine which positions are eligible for telework, or to what extent a position’s duties may allow telework. Not all positions that can work remotely are able to do so full-time. There are some types of work that must be performed on-site to meet operational needs, and identifying that work is the purview of the agency. This guidance is intended to address only situations where an employee holds a position designated as telework-eligible because they perform some amount of work that can be accomplished remotely.

Caring for dependents

In response to the practical realities facing state workers at the beginning of the pandemic and the statewide Stay Home Stay Healthy order, OFM State HR issued clarifying guidance in March of 2020 explicitly directing agencies to waive any policy requirement which prohibited caring for others while teleworking. Since then, experience has demonstrated that many state employees can still perform their duties successfully while working remotely and caring for dependents. Many required flexible schedules to do so.

Recent research has also shown that a lack of dependent care has prompted substantial numbers of women to drop out of the workforce. The U.S. sees an estimated $12.7B loss in productivity due to reduced workforce participation and missed workdays related to dependent care. Reducing turnover and unplanned leave use by establishing flexible and supportive practices serves the interests of the State as well as the impacted employees.

Moving forward, state executive branch agencies should either remove or not reinstitute any previous language in their remote work policies which prohibit caring for others while working remotely. Caring for others shall not preclude a state employee from teleworking, although the employer reserves the right to revisit or withdraw approval to telework if the employee is not able to effectively perform their assigned work.

Last updated
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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