Is Your Work At Home Policy Spurring Jealousy?

work at home policy

Do you let your employees work from home at least some of the time? That’s great. Dozens of studies have shown that the ability to work remotely is one of the biggest perks employees of all ages desire. But is your work at home policy inciting jealousy and resentment in the ranks?

That’s not so great. But chances are, according to a recent survey by Kona, that’s what’s happening.

Seven in 10 workers in the Kona survey say they would rather telecommute than work in the office. Among those between the ages of 35 and 44, the number is even higher at 81 percent.

But the majority of employees (57 percent) in offices that allow remote work say the policy spurs jealousy among those who don’t get to work at home.

How can you make sure working at home makes your employees more productive, not more resentful?

Your Work at Home Policy

Set a Work At Home Policy

You should write a work at home policy as part of your employee manual. Every employee should read and acknowledge it.

The work at home policy should cover issues such as hours to be worked per day or week, how the person will protect the business’s confidential information, liability issues, what equipment will be provided and how the employee will be monitored when working at home.

Be Sure Your Policy Can’t be Construed as Discriminatory

Clearly, not all jobs can be done at home. For instance, your accounting clerk might be able to work from home, while your retail sales clerk can’t. What’s important is that you treat all employees in the same job classification or with the same duties the same when it comes to working at home.

If you let one accounting clerk work from home because she has children and don’t allow a childless accounting clerk to do the same, you could be at risk of a lawsuit. And you’re likely causing gossip and resentment.

The only reason to treat employees in the same job differently is if one has a legitimate reason for needing to work at home that is not discriminatory. For instance, if one worker has a disability that requires working from home. As you can see, this area can be tricky, so it’s best to consult an attorney to review your work at home policy.

Communicate Clearly

Communication is key for businesses with virtual workers. When employees who work in the office feel they can never reach the work at home staff, or don’t understand why certain people are working at home, resentment grows.

Everyone on your team should know the expectations for work at home employees, including what hours they are supposed to be available, multiple ways to reach them (email, phone, IM, etc.) and what tasks they are working on.

Emphasize to work at home employees the importance of keeping a high profile so others on the team see that they’re working.

Monitor Work At Home Employees

There are many ways to do this, from having them check in with status reports every few hours to using time-tracking software like Toggl to using software that monitors what they’re doing on their computers.

Assess Results

Resentment occurs when employees feel that others are taking advantage of your work at home policy. To ensure employees aren’t abusing the privilege of working at home, it’s crucial to regularly review their productivity, progress and results. This can be done differently depending on the job and the person, but you might want to set daily or weekly goals or quotas.

Check in with remote employees quarterly or even monthly to make sure that everything is still working out. Remind workers that telecommuting is a privilege that must be earned, not a right, and you’ll get better results.

Reserve the Right to End the Work At Home Policy

Speaking of privileges, your work at home policy should state that you have the right to forbid telecommuting at any time. Otherwise, you may find yourself in legal hot water if you want to pull a Marissa Mayer (or Tony Hsieh) and have everyone work in the office.

Address Jealousy Openly

Despite your best efforts, it’s inevitable that people will get jealous—they’re only human.

When these issues arise don’t push them aside. Be alert for resentments that are brewing. Address these issues with the person who’s expressing jealousy. You may find the root cause is something completely different than someone else working at home – and that you can nip it in the bud to create a much happier employee.

Jealous Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

15 Reactions
  1. I’ve worked at home for pretty much the better part of the last decade. I rarely found the need to go into the office and it’s allowed me to work for companies around the World. I think that the only person who is jealous is my wife.

    • I have worked at home for around 5 years with the first 3 years while I am still in college. The last 2 years of working from home is not really that good. I prefer working at a nearby office. It has airconditioner when it gets hot and a heater when it gets cold. It has ergonomic chairs and fast Internet. Plus, I don’t get diverted by my family members who constantly want to talk to me at home.

  2. Rieva,

    It’s a great topic not many discuss.

    I never thought in deep about telecommuting policy – and I actually never understood why Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer banned telecommuting; but now I get the insight and I understand that governing telecommuting (and dealing with jealousy) is resource-consuming and often unnecessary.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic!

  3. It’s only practical to say that many would prefer to work at home, especially for those that are using public transportation and live far away from the office. But there are more formal conditions to consider if such position is qualified for a home-based job. We should always be objective. Thanks for writing!

    • You’re so right Belinda. Not all jobs can be done from home, and I you may want to have an employee go through a probationary period of working for you before you offer them the virtual option.

  4. Jealousy is an immature and unacceptable response under any circumstance. If one job allows someone to work from home (programming) and another requires they show up every day (retail store clerk), that’s business. If the joy of being a store clerk is overshadowed by having to come into work, change jobs.

    Monitoring people at home (or at work) communicates you don’t trust them. Get other people you can trust (or better yet, set up an environment of trust). Managers (who should be done away with as Industrial Age artifacts) are addicted to managing “processes” – Managers would love to have them “check in” every few hours to prove they are working. Leaders will instead simply agree on the appropriate result required, and will expect the person to deliver without being monitored.

    Comparison, jealousy, fairness – all are the perview of the immature
    and childlike. Putting in place “policies” for this is “LCD” Management – managing to the Lowest Common Denominator. Employe HCD Leadership instead – lead people at the highest level at which you would want them all to perform, and weed out the whiners and “fairness” mongers.

  5. Working from home works well for me since February 2004, after 7 years of working in the corporate field. I get to save money on gasoline, working clothes, make-up, and most of all, precious time.

  6. I believe I saw a survey several years ago that said virtual workers save about $8,000 a year on the types of expenditures you mentioned

    • Rieva,

      That could be the case. As an online business owner, I save more than $1,000 a month working from home.

      No office rental; huge saving on gas; minimal biz travel; no morning coffee on the go and lunch/dinner arrangements with clients; the savings are, well, quite aplenty 🙂

  7. Rieva,

    What we should do is to give arguments for getting the job done and spreading the good work. The antidote against jealousy is pride in your work and understand that envy is not a virtue.

    I wonder how home-based business owners will react to this survey?

  8. Referring to it as “jealousy” is really an unfair misnomer and is really all-too-easy scapegoating for those of you who do have the privilege of working from home. In reality, what you’re sensing from your colleagues is justified resentment because your choice to not come to the office lowers overall morale and saps productive energy from the workspace. Of course, most of you here who are snidely commenting on what you erroneously assume is your co-workers’ jealousy clearly don’t care about office culture or how your absences impact those around you because you actively avoid being around your co-workers at every opportunity.