How Guilt Can Hold Back Good Employees

People with a tendency to feel guilty for disappointing their coworkers are among the most ethical and hard-working people to work with. However, these highly guilt-prone people may be the most reticent to enter into partnerships.

By understanding this phenomenon, managers can make the best decisions about team-building and increase productivity. (For more, click here.)

As a supervisor, how can you use the research discussed in this article to create effective workplace dynamics and increase productivity? As an employee, how can you put to use this research in your work life?

Reduce Your Stress In Two Minutes a Day

Bill Rielly had it all: a degree from West Point, an executive position at Microsoft, strong faith, a great family life, and plenty of money.  He even got along well with his in-laws!  So why did he have so much stress and anxiety that he could barely sleep at night? I have worked with Bill for several years now and we both believe his experience could be useful for other capable, driven individuals.

At one time, no level of success seemed enough for Bill. He learned at West Point that the way to solve problems was to persevere through any pain. But this approach didn’t seem to work with reducing his stress. When he finished his second marathon a few minutes slower than his goal, he felt he had failed. So to make things “right” he ran another marathon just five weeks later. His body rejected this idea, and he finished an hour slower than before. Finally, his wife convinced him to figure out what was really driving his stress. He spent the next several years searching for ways to find more joy in the journey. In the process he found five tools. Each was ordinary enough, but together they proved life-changing and enabled his later success as an Apple executive. (For more, click here.)

Have you used any of these techniques to manage your stress? Will you put any of these into practice now, after reading this article?

How to Keep Work Stress from Taking Over Your Life

Unless you’re a robot, it’s all but impossible to avoid having work stress(don’t worry, robots, your time will come!). But it’s not impossible to avoid taking those feelings home with you at the end of the day. True leisure time, in which anxiety and frustration over work can be set aside until you’re next at the office, is essential to staying mentally in check. Here are five ways to keep work stress, rage, and anxiety where they belong. (For more, click here.)

Do you use any of these techniques? Which are you going to put into practice now?

What Employees Value More than Salary, According to Glassdoor

Salary is important, but it’s not the only thing that contributes to job satisfaction. New research from Glassdoor reveals what makes people happiest at their jobs and how it varies depending on income.

Glassdoor wanted to see how employee values change as their income changes. What workplace factors do employees workers value overall, and how does it change with salary increases? To answer this, Glassdoor looked at their own data: salary reports and company reviews from over 600,000 users. They looked at six different factors: culture & values, senior leadership, career opportunities, business outlook, work-life balance and compensation & benefits.

They used the “Shapley Value” analysis method to see how various factors change the overall outlook. They explain: (For more, click here.)

How does your job satisfaction track with the six workplace factors described in this article? How could this data be applied to deal with employee retention and turnover at your organization?

How HR Can Promote Flexibility in Blue-Collar Jobs

Working-class employees need work/life balance, too. And HR can help give it to them—while boosting the organization’s competitive edge.

When Rachael Sobon, SHRM-CP, started her job as the first HR professional at CRP Industries 10 years ago, she quickly saw room for improvement. Sobon understood that the daily deadlines of a bustling warehouse required many of the Cranbury, N.J.-based company’s 180 workers to be onsite at certain hours. However, she also believed that some policies at CRP, a third-generation family business that distributes after-market auto parts, were too rigid for the company’s own good.

“We had a lot of attendance issues,” Sobon recalls. Because there was no provision for taking just an hour or two off at a time, employees would often take a sick day to run errands or go to routine appointments. Many would use up their time off by summer, so when the holidays rolled around, they took leave without pay. “That hurts the business when we can’t schedule out the manpower,” Sobon says.

Decades-old policies intended to ensure proper staffing levels were backfiring, Sobon says. So, with support of the company’s president, she introduced a paid-time-off policy that allows employees to take accrued leave in half-hour increments. “Whether they’re sick or going to a school play or the cable person is coming—it just gives them flexibility so they’re not stuck in a situation where they have to pretend they’re ill or make up a story,” she explains. (For more, click here.)

This article primarily addresses the private sector. Which of the ideas expressed in this article could be applied to the federal sector? Which are not an issue or have already been addressed?


Researchers Have Settled The Question Of Whether It’s Better To Work From Home Or The Office

It’s an old debate: Some cite research suggesting that remote workers earn more, quit less, and are more productive than their office-dwelling counterparts. Others point to evidence that workers at home are less productive and less innovative than workers who labor shoulder-to-shoulder.

Which camp is right? Probably both. And neither. There’s actually only one right answer to the question of whether employees work better at home or in the office, says Ben Waber, the CEO of the workplace analytics company Humanyze and a visiting scientist at MIT: It depends. For more, click here.

What do you think? Is working from home effective for your job? In your organization? In your circumstances, how could remote work be more productive and satisfying?

Telework in the Federal Government

OPM Director John Berry announced a comprehensive plan to jumpstart agency telework programs out of a plodding first gear into a cruising fifth gear, giving tens-of-thousands more Federal employees nationwide the opportunity to work from home. Today, only 5 percent of 1.9 million Federal employees telework.

Berry’s plan to substantially increase telework participation consists of five components that, when taken together, form the basis for establishing effective telework programs that can be tailored to each agency’s unique culture. Berry said he will call upon agencies to set up appeals boards that review whether employees can telework–even if their supervisors say they can’t. Details of how the boards will work remain to be ironed out.

Below is an excerpt from the OPM issuance, A Guide to Telework in the Federal Government.]

To comply with telework legislation, managers must be committed to using telework to the fullest extent possible. Beyond the basic requirements, managerial skill, participation, and support can make telework a real asset to an organization. To effectively implement a telework program, managers should accomplish the following:

Determine Employee Eligibility

Generally, agencies have discretion to determine telework eligibility criteria for their employees. These criteria should be detailed in agency policy. Individual managers should assess who is and who is not eligible in their workgroup based on these eligibility guidelines and any applicable collective bargaining agreements. Some agencies may provide managers additional discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a request to telework from an eligible employee, based on additional factors such as staffing or budget.

All employees are considered eligible for telework except the following:

  • Employees whose positions require, on a daily basis (i.e., every work day), direct handling of secure materials or on-site activity that cannot be handled remotely or at an alternative worksite, such as face-to-face personal contact in some medical, counseling, or similar services; hands-on contact with machinery, equipment, vehicles, etc.; or other physical presence/site dependent activity, such as forest ranger or guard duty tasks; and
  • Employees whose last performance rating of record (or its equivalent) is below fully successful (or the agency’s equivalent) or whose conduct has resulted in disciplinary action within the last year. (NOTE: Agencies may require a rating of record higher than fully successful for eligibility, but must still report as eligible all employees rated fully successful or higher.)

Understand and Assess the Needs of the Workgroup

Telework is often implemented piecemeal, rather than strategically, as individuals request arrangements. This reactive approach carries the risk of raising fairness issues, with decisions about telework arrangements being made on a first-come, first-served basis. Telework should be implemented strategically, taking into account the needs and work of the group, rather than granting or denying telework requests one by one. Employees should participate in the process and may be asked to help formulate possible solutions to issues that may arise.

Create Signed Agreements

The teleworker and his or her manager should enter into a written agreement for every type of telework, whether the employee teleworks regularly or not. The parameters of this agreement are most often laid out by the agency policy and/or collective bargaining agreement, but should include certain key elements (see OPM’s How to Be an Effective Teleworker). Most importantly, the agreement should be signed and dated by the manager. Managers should keep copies of all telework agreements on file.

Telework agreements are living documents and should be revisited by the manager and teleworker and re-signed regularly, preferably at least once a year. At a minimum, new telework agreements should be executed when a new employee/manager relationship is established.

OPM strongly recommends any individuals asked to telework in the case of a Continuity of Operations (COOP) event or a pandemic health crisis have a telework agreement in place that provides for such an occurrence. Such individuals also should practice teleworking on a regular basis as much as possible.

Base Denials on Business Reasons

Telework requests may be denied and telework agreements may be terminated. Telework is not an employee right, even if the employee is considered “eligible” by OPM standards and/or the individual agency standards.

Denial and termination decisions must be based on business needs or performance, not personal reasons. For example, a manager may deny a telework agreement if, due to staffing issues, an employee who otherwise has portable duties must provide on-site office coverage. In this case, and whenever applicable, the denial or termination should include information about when the employee might reapply, and also if applicable, what actions the employee should take to improve his or her chance of approval. Denials should be provided in a timely manner. Managers should also review the agency’s negotiated agreement(s) and telework policy to ensure they meet any applicable requirements.

Managers should provide affected employees (and keep copies of) signed written denials or terminations of telework agreements. These should include information about why the arrangement was denied or terminated. OPM tracks the numbers of agreements denied and/or terminated, as well as the reasons for such an action; therefore, copies should be given to the agency telework coordinator as well.

Bargaining unit employees may file a grievance about the denial or cancellation of a telework agreement through the negotiated grievance procedure.

Use Good Performance Management Practices

Managers often ask, “How do I know what my employees are doing when I can’t see them?” Performance standards for off-site employees are the same as performance standards for on-site employees. Management expectations of a teleworker’s performance should be clearly addressed in the telework agreement. As with on-site employees, teleworkers must, and can, be held accountable for the results they produce. Good performance management techniques practiced by a manager will mean a smooth, easy transition to a telework environment. Resources for performance management are available from OPM at

Communicate Expectations

The telework agreement (see How to Be an Effective Teleworker for key elements) provides a framework for the discussion that needs to take place between the manager and the employee about expectations. For both routine and emergency telework, this discussion is important to ensure the manager and the employee understand each other’s expectations around basic issues such as the following:

  • How will the manager know the employee is present? (Signing in, signing off procedures may be needed.)
  • How will the manager know the work is being accomplished?
  • What technologies will be used to maintain contact?
  • What equipment is the agency providing? What equipment is the teleworker providing?
  • Who provides technical assistance in the event of equipment disruption?
  • What will the weekly/monthly telework schedule be? How will the manager and co-workers be kept updated about the schedule? Do changes need to be pre-approved?
  • What will the daily telework schedule be? Will the hours be the same as in the main office?
  • What are the physical attributes of the telework office, and do they conform to basic safety standards?
  • What are the expectations for availability (phone, e-mail, etc.)?
  • What is the expectation regarding the amount of notice (if any) given for reporting to the official worksite, and how will such notice be provided?
  • How is a telework agreement terminated by management or an employee?

Facilitate Communication with All Members of the Workgroup

Teleworking and non-teleworking employees must understand expectations regarding telework arrangements, including coverage, communication, and responsibilities. Although individual teleworkers must take responsibility for their own availability and information sharing, managers should ensure methods are in place to maintain open communication across the members of a workgroup.

Remain Equitable in Assigning Work and Rewarding Performance

Managers should avoid distributing work based on “availability” as measured by physical presence, and avoid the pitfall of assuming someone who is present and looks busy is actually accomplishing more work than someone who is not on-site. Good performance management practices are essential for telework to work effectively and equitably.

Make Good Decisions about Equipment

In FMR Bulletin 2006-B3, Guidelines for Alternative Workplace Arrangements (a link is available at ), GSA provides guidelines for the equipment and support an agency may provide teleworkers. Generally, decisions are made by the agency or by individual managers regarding the ways in which teleworkers should be equipped. Managers should familiarize themselves with these guidelines and also with their agency’s policy on equipment. Within those constraints, the challenge for managers is finding the right balance of budget, security, and effectiveness. Factors to consider include technology needs based on the work of the employee, agency security requirements, and budget constraints.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The success of an organization’s telework program depends on regular, routine use. Experience is the only way to enable managers, employees, IT support, and other stakeholders to work through any technology, equipment, communications, workflow, and associated issues that may inhibit the transparency of remote work. Individuals expected to telework in an emergency situation should, with some frequency, telework under non-emergency circumstances as well.