Writing telework policies in public libraries
By Cari Dubiel
In part one of this blog series, we explored factors to consider regarding remote work in public libraries. In this article, we’ll move on to the practicalities of writing a telework policy if you choose to pursue one.
First, there are legal considerations: state and federal employment law, nondiscrimination, and workers’ compensation. Especially since some staff will not be eligible if they are front-line, it is important to be clear and equitable about who can work remotely and why. Consult with a lawyer before beginning to draft.
Clearly state the expectations of an employee working from home. The employee must be aware of the hours worked and account for them in some way, usually by keeping a journal of what has been done. Document how you would like the employee to communicate with staff at the main site: chat, email, phone, or a combination. The employee should also comply with policies enforced onsite, including code of conduct, attendance, and confidentiality.
The policy should also discuss what equipment and Internet connection is to be used by the employee and what the library is responsible for. For example, the library should not take responsibility for damage to the employee’s home workspace.
Ad hoc arrangements may also be considered. For example, you may allow an employee to work from home at the discretion of administration. If the employee has collection development, program development, or administrative duties, it may be feasible for them to work remotely if they are unable to get to work that day.
Even if telework is not possible for your library, make sure to keep up on trends in the private sector. According to data analyzed by law firm Kastner Westman & Wilkins, many employers are offering hybrid arrangements and flexibility to attract candidates. A Gallup poll conducted in March 2022 showed that 59% of employees surveyed preferred two or three days in the office and two working from home. You can think about what makes your library a great place to work and encourage flexibility in other areas. For example, maybe your employees have flexibility to leave early or come in late as long as they are not working the desk. These arrangements can work as procedure rather than policy and can be flexible in their own right.
In part three of this series, we’ll interview public library administrators to find out how they successfully wrote and implemented their policies.
Cari Dubiel is a public library expert with 20-plus years of experience. Having worked from the ground up as a Shelver to her current management position with the Twinsburg Public Library, Cari understands the operational aspects of public libraries from both a staff and administrative perspective. Cari has managed projects such as technical services workflow development, software evaluation and implementation, collection development analysis, employee onboarding and training, and website usability. She holds a bachelors’ degree from Hiram College and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from Kent State University. She is also an adjunct faculty member at KSU in the iSchool program. She presents frequently for PCI Webinars and has also presented for NEO-RLS, OLC, and public library staff development days. A former Library Liaison to the National board of Sisters in Crime, Cari is very active in the publishing industry. She is represented by Lynnette Novak of the Seymour Agency and is the lead editor for Writing Bloc Books.