The University of Washington: Facilities Services

Telework stories: Alisha LaPlante

Telework stories: Alisha LaPlante

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How long have you been teleworking?

I have been teleworking for more than seven years.

How frequently do you telework?

The way my schedule is set up, I telework a portion of almost every work day. I come in to work at 7 a.m., which cuts my commute time, and I usually leave around 3 o’clock to pick up my youngest child from school. I ‘return’ to work when I get home by getting online remotely. I am able to come into work the next day not be flooded with emails and questions. I can also continue working on most assignments from home. This arrangement allows me to respond to questions or emails late in the day. If there are meetings that are scheduled beyond 3 p.m. then I have to rearrange my schedule to stay at the office. We schedule our core meeting between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to accommodate the different schedules that people work.

What is your job at the University?

I am HR manager for the Information School. I oversee payroll and all personnel actions including recruiting, selection, general maintenance of employees (including filling out telework agreements), performance management, promotions, and reclassifications of positions. This work requires coordination with a number of administrative offices throughout the University.

Do you have a formal telework agreement in place with your supervisor?

All of our employees, myself included, have a telecommuting agreement on file using a form that is almost identical to the UW telework agreement. The agreement doesn’t get updated or looked at again unless the arrangement changes. We have a variety of reasons that people would telecommute. Some co-workers telework on an ad hoc basis. Examples include situations where a supervisor approves their working at home on specific a project for a day, if they have sick children requiring them to be at home, or to not travel to the office in bad weather. Each of these arrangements are covered under a specific ad hoc telework agreement.

Has teleworking affected your productivity?

It’s definitely a positive in my ability to get my work done. Not necessarily for my personal life because it is a lot harder to shut down when I am at home. The line becomes very blurred sometimes. It takes some discipline that I have learned over the years.

What is your supervisor’s attitude regarding teleworking? Any changes since the beginning of the pilot?

The relationship has changed for the better and this arrangement has helped the University retain me over the years. The flexibility it has given me has kept me working for UW.

Do your coworkers have any reaction to your teleworking?

My co-workers are receptive. We are pretty open about asking: “Hey on Thursday there is really no other time to meet and Alisha we need you stay until five.’ If you give at least 24 hours’ notice, I’ll be there. If you tell me at 1 o’clock that I need to stay until 5 o’clock, then that gets a little more difficult.

What do you think are some of the benefits of teleworking?

A shorter commute time. It takes me about half as much time to travel to the office earlier in the morning than during regular commute hours. My kids benefit greatly because I am home with them after school and I am saving money on childcare.

What do you think are some of the disadvantages of teleworking?

I think teleworking for an entire day would be challenging for me. Eight hours a day would be too much. I think that there is only so much you can do online and face-to-face interaction is important to my day. Plus there are files on site that I need to access that are not electronic and hard-copy only.

How can telework be better supported at the UW?

I feel that teleworking is supported strongly by UW.

Are your technological needs being met while teleworking?

Ninety-five-percent of us at the Information School have laptops that we can take home. Academic advisors are able to use Adobe Connect to share files and have video conferences with staff and faculty. I think that a significant portion of campus does not have these tools available. We might have better access to technology or are more comfortable using it since we work at the Information School.

Is your morale affected by teleworking?

I get to continue to work in a position with professional growth opportunities and do not have to choose between family and job. It is a solid retention tool able to give people flexibility in their work and family life.

Would you recommend teleworking for others at UW?

Yes. Teleworkers need to be diligent about setting expectations for themselves and ask the organization if working remotely is reasonable. For example, would teleworking place undue burden on co-workers? Would the department need to make adjustments if working from home is going to work in the long-term? Both the worker and the manager have to be willing to say, “this is not working for me” and find another solution.

Has teleworking had any impact on your use of sick time/vacation time?

I’ve noticed that people use less sick and vacation time. I don’t take leave in ways maybe I would if I had less flexibility. Sometimes a co-worker might be feeling ill and wants to sleep in to get more rest, but be able to get in four hours of work later in the day. They are still getting the job done but not having to take an entire day off. We tend to police each other so no one feels taken advantage of.

How many hours of commuting a day do you save by working at home? What do you do with that time?

I save 30 to 35 minutes a day by not having to commute during peak times. I use the extra time to cook dinner for my family.

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