Updated: Aug 4
The most common way employers are accommodating workers is through teleworking. If your employer does not offer this yet, make sure to get this structure in place regardless of whether it will be needed. It is easier for your employer to agree to a remote work request if you do the legwork. Show what your plan is and how you will continue to be a productive employee. Explain your remote work set up. Talk about your home office equipment and that it is a private space. Make sure you have the software in place.
If your children are at home and you are teleworking, you may be eligible for a leave of absence under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. To read more about your rights, click here. If you are not eligible for a leave of absence, or you are self-employed, the following guidance will be helpful to you:
- Act like you will go to the office. Have clear hours. Get dressed. Pack your lunch. Have a finish time. Keep your weekends work-free. You need downtime. It is easy to blur the lines.
- Overcommunicate with your employer. Give regular updates of the status of your work.
- If you have kids at home, they may be too young to understand that mommy needs to work. If you have other caretakers at home, put a red sign on the door. Make sure daddy or whoever is in charge understands you cannot be disturbed. Ideally you have a separate space for your work.
- If you're home and school is closed, and you can't find coverage for your kids, don't despair. I have worked with my baby on my lap many times. Make sure you have a voice dictation system to avoid sticky hands banging on your keyboard. Open two windows on your screen, one for your work and one for cartoons. For more baby at work tips, check my article here.
- If you have a partner, discuss the daily work schedule the evening before, to avoid joint conference calls while dripping in children.
If you have are telecommuting as an accommodation because you have the virus, and you are doing a fine job, you may have job protection if your employer revokes the accommodation. If you feel like you are being retaliated against or treated unfairly, make sure to discuss your concerns with an attorney.
If your work-from-home accommodation was not offered to you subject to a legal right you have, such as a disability-based accommodation or a leave of absence, it may be a privilege. In this case, however tempting, don't treat your teleworking accommodation as a sabbatical or a chance to clean up your garage. Employers can still terminate or discipline for failure to perform the essential job functions, even when you're home, even during a crisis. Many employers may even be on the lookout to cut personnel that is not proving itself essential. Be vigilant.
We are currently doing a mass experiment on whether our jobs can collectively be performed from home. If we can continue doing our jobs from home, we should make flexible options permanent when the crisis is over. The way we do that is by showing, right now, that we can do our jobs from home.