when your boss wants to inspect your house before letting you work from home

A reader writes:

My husband has been a loyal employee for over 5 years. He has been requesting to telework 1 day a week for over a year. His office policies as a whole encourage employees to work from home. However, his recently promoted supervisor refuses to grant him this opportunity and most recently made him write a report on how it would benefit their division (even though the division handbook encourages it). Today she said she’d need to come visit our house to ensure that it’s possible for him to work from home.

This can’t be legal–a supervisor requiring to see your home. Is it?

Yep, it’s legal. But it’s bizarre.

Many companies do have teleworking policies that allow them to inspect your work site at home, but it’s rare to require it. Usually that clause is only going to be invoked in some unusual circumstance, where there’s specific cause for concern — if ever. What is she going to be looking for, anyway?

Your husband might point out to his boss that the U.S. Department of Labor specifically says that they don’t hold employers liable for home office safety or expect employers to inspect home offices, and that federal agencies themselves don’t require home visits before approving teleworking for employees. (To be clear, they don’t prohibit it; they’ve just made clear that they don’t expect or require it.)

He could also suggest that in place of a home inspection, she could have telecommuters complete a checklist covering the elements of their home office set-up that she wants to make sure are covered.

And he should probably just say directly, “My understanding is that the company encourages teleworking, and doesn’t do things like home inspections. Given that context, can you help me understand your concerns?”

But ultimately, unless company policy says otherwise, it’s the boss’s decision whether or not to allow it … no matter how supportive of teleworking the company is as a whole.

That said, it’s possible that your husband could loop HR into this for some help if he goes to them under the guise of asking for advice in navigating the situation. As in: “Jane says she’ll need to visit my home to determine if she’ll approve my teleworking one day a week. I had the impression that the company really supports teleworking, but her request for a home inspection has me unsure about how this generally works. Do we typically do home inspections?”

A sane HR department will probably step in at that point. There’s no guarantee of that, of course, and if they step in, it might be only to stop the home inspection, not to push the manager to okay working from home. But I’d try all the above before saying yes to letting your boss run around your home inspecting it.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. The IT Manager

    It is bizarre. But is there any reason not to allow it? You husband can stay home one morning and the boss could drive over a look at it for 5 minutes. OTOH is sounds like she objects to him working from home for some reason and is looking for an excuse to say no.

    1. Jamie

      It is bizarre. But is there any reason not to allow it?

      Besides how insulting and invasive this is? I wouldn’t allow it.

      If IT vets his access as being safe for the network, then any problems he has will become readily apparent.

      I’ve had people I work with to my home. And if anyone broke down by my house, got lost in mu neighborhood, or had a burning passion to see my gramma’s Hummel collection I’d be happy to put on a pot of coffee and have them stop by.

      But to inspect me to see if what? I have an internet connection? My printer works? My keyboard isn’t missing the A key? That I don’t have neighbors rehearsing their all garbage can band at the hours I need to be on calls?

      I’m very curious as to what they’re looking for. The one issue that’s hard to vet with a conversation if people aren’t being honest are kids – if they say they have child care, but really are working from home and parenting without child care at the same time. That will be a productivity issue which will come to light at some point, but maybe not immediately – but a home visit won’t out this. The other stuff will shake out fast – you can either work effectively from home or not.

      1. Joey

        I bet its a workers comp worry. You know, make sure your work station is generally conducive to preventing things like office type injuries like wrist,back, neck problems.

      2. Lindsay J

        I feel like it’s incredibly invasive. I won’t adopt through animal rescues who require home visits, either.

        I know they want what’s best for the animals, but my home is my home and I can adopt from a shelter and just fill out a questionnaire/general knowledge checklist and not have to consent to having my privacy invaded.

      3. Penny

        Some companies want to see how private your workspace is so others can’t see confidential info on your computer and if you have a somewhat distraction free environment. My mom works from home and there were rules like that when it started.

  2. Sascha

    Are some of the concerns that the employee will be distracted by other things? If that’s the case, then I still don’t see how an inspection is necessary. You could have the greatest, safest, home office in the world but still be distracted by other things. My company HR requires we submit a photo of our home work space, but they care way more about employees using telecommuting for things like taking care of kids or working on side projects on the clock. The space itself is not concern…it’s what the employee is going to be doing. Even then, my boss just told me to take a photo of any desk area – I work from my couch, and my boss is fine with that, as long as my work is getting done.

    1. HR lady

      I was thinking a photo might be a great substitute for an in-home visit. Maybe OP could suggest that (or, even easier, take a photo and bring it to your boss, and then say, “do you still need to see it in person?”)

      1. AnotherAlison

        Obviously not applicable in the OP’s situation, but I don’t think it would be too difficult to take a picture of my mother’s home office if I did not have an adequate workspace. Everything can be gamed.

        (I say this because I’ve seen telecommute job listings that required a dedicated, separate home office space. No plopping down on the couch with your laptop allowed, I guess.)

        1. Vicki

          I have a dedicated, separate home office space.
          But at many time, I’ve often plopped down on the couch with my laptop.
          My couch is comfortable and has access to actual sunlight.

    2. Jamie

      Almost everyone has a TV and he would clearly have an internet connection – the two main distraction machines…you have to be able to measure productivity because even the office is full of distractions.

      1. hilde

        This. A distraction is a distraction, right? Does it make a difference if I’m at home doing the laundry and watching soaps and avoiding work or if I’m in the office cruising facebook and avoiding work? It seems overly simplistic but I truly think there are managers out there that can’t see how these things are equal. Or am I’m the odd one?

        1. Sascha

          Yep, that’s what I think too. One of my former coworkers would spend most of the day chatting with people in the office. He was physically present but definitely not working. Like Jamie said, you have to measure productivity. Employees can find all sorts of ways to be distracted even if you try your best to prevent it.

      2. Cassie

        Agreed. I can sit in my living room and get loads done with the tv in the background, whereas the constant din of coworker smalltalk drives me up a wall at work.

  3. some1

    “He could also suggest that in place of a home inspection, she could have telecommuters complete a checklist covering the elements of their home office set-up that she wants to make sure are covered.”

    But just because says they have something, doesn’t mean they do. Is it possible that the boss has worked with someone who telecommuted and it turned out that they didn’t have something they really needed, which caused projects to fall behind? I had a co-worker who said she was going to work from home, but ended up coming in because she wasn’t able to log onto her neighbor’s wifi.

    But if the boss has these concerns, she should address those instead of requiring a home inspection.

    1. HR lady

      “…ended up coming in because she wasn’t able to log onto her neighbor’s wifi. ”

      Now that’s pretty funny. And I bet it’s the kind of thing that OP’s boss wants to check for.

  4. Vee

    The only thing I can think of is a security requirement. I had to have my supervisor check my home work area to verify that my theoretical workspace was in a room with a lock on the door. I say theoretical because for the visit my computer was on my desk in a guest room with a lockable door, but when I work from home I’m on the couch or in the kitchen more often than not.

    At any rate it was a 5-minute token check. Pain in the butt because I had to clean my house for the boss’s visit, but at least it gave me the motivation to clean!

  5. Steve

    We had a manager who insisted that the work space DID NOT include a television. He didn’t do home visits, but would occasionally skype you and ask you to pan the camera around the room.

    1. the gold digger

      Which shouldn’t matter as long as the employee is getting her work done. Managers need to manage. I can goof off at the office (witness: I am reading AAM right now – at work – in my cube) as well as I can at home. It’s just that at work, I can’t get any laundry done.

      1. some1

        I agree that employees can goof off at work, but the difference is that your manager can walk by your desk and make sure you aren’t reading blogs, watching TV, or playing solitaire.

        1. Emily K

          My mom has worked full-time remote for the same company for the last two decades. She ALWAYS has a TV on in her home office. She’s not actively engaged with watching it most of the time, she just likes the background noise and usually had it on TV Land reruns of shows she’d seen a dozen times before. She gets her work done and has had consistently positive reviews throughout her tenure with this company. Having a TV on doesn’t mean you’re not working.

          1. some1

            No, I agree with you, but unfortunately to some bosses it does matter. And if it does, I can see why they’d want to be able to monitor the situation is all.

          2. Joey

            It’s not as simple as that. Maybe if you’re reading blogs you don’t have enough objectives and your boss has reason to think you aren’t open to new ones.

            1. KellyK

              Then not being open to new objectives is the problem, not the blogs.

              If you have to walk past someone’s desk to verify that they’re working, then you haven’t done a good job of clearly defining what you need them to accomplish.

              (Also, frequently we’re talking about exempt people who are being paid a salary. If they don’t get paid any extra for staying an hour late, what difference does it make if they play Solitaire now and again?)

                1. Emily K

                  Not every position is suited to requiring the person in it to be “busy” as long as they’re productive.

                  My role is split between technical and creative components (a rare quality in a job that I’m eternally grateful to have landed). The technical stuff, I can just sit down and do. But creative inspiration doesn’t necessarily start flowing as soon as you fire up your computer at 9am and last until 5pm. Sometimes I have creative block and if I try to force my way through it, I end up spending 2-3 hours staring at a blank page and tediously constructing and rewriting something that is barely passable…or I can spend 20 minutes watching TV or go for a 10-minute walk around the block and bam! Inspiration strikes and I sit down at my computer and bang out the whole thing in 20 minutes. Creative inspiration tends to come precisely when you’re not busy.

                  In addition to purely creative work, there’s also benefit to allowing even your technically-oriented employees that time to be “not busy” so they can get a little creative inspiration of their own. Those moments of inspiration are often what will lead them to improve a workflow process or otherwise generate some out-of-box thinking that can be the difference between “I did the work I was expected to do” and “I found a better way to do the work I was asked to do.”

                  Employees are best evaluated on productivity and contributions to the project/team/company, not busy-ness.

                2. the gold digger

                  Then, eh……, perhaps my boss should go with me to the gym and watch me think about work problems while I am pedaling during spin. Or while I am lying in bed at night, thinking about our marketing strategy.

                  Or perhaps my boss could set objectives and manage to them.

      1. Steve

        Jen, this was a few years ago before streaming was really mainstream. But my setup appeared to be a dual monitor situation when in fact one monitor was my work computer and the other was my personal computer. Throw up a quick spreadsheet on the personal computer and no one knew any difference. Uh, not that I ever did anything like that, of course!

    2. Jamie

      The hell? I’d work in a cell under constant surveillance before I’d try to have an adult professional relationship with a boss who expected me to pan the room.

      I am so offended by stuff like this probably for the same reason it offends me when bosses monitor how many times someone goes to the bathroom or if someone is 3 minutes late on jobs not requiring hard clock in times – it’s treating adults like toddlers or felons who you think will color on the walls or rob you blind if you’re not watching them every second.

      Managers need to learn how to measure productivity and the quality of the work. If those are issues, which is a big deal, address THAT, but this is so insulting as the vast majority of professionals either have the integrity to do their jobs well…or are smart enough to get around these kind of checks.

      1. Adam V

        +1

        Due to all the stories about people having their pictures taken surreptitiously by their own laptop camera, everyone on my team has theirs covered with tape (well, that’s why I covered mine. Everyone else may have their own reason). And no, I’m not taking it off just so you can take your own creepy look around my room. Learn to manage properly.

        1. The IT Manager

          Not just surreptitiously. We use MS Live Meeting or Lync. People occasionally accidentally share their video with the audiance. Often funny.

          That’s why my camera is covered and it is disabled.

        2. Jamie

          Don’t use tape – use a bandaid. Tape can damage the camera lens and cleaning the residue off is a PITA.

          Not a laptop in my house that doesn’t have the camera covered with a colorful, cartoon band-aid.

          1. Jessa

            I use that new post it tape that comes in rolls. The adhesive is low tack and it doesn’t leave a residue. I used to just cut off the sticky tops of a regular (not super sticky) note.

          2. Julie

            I have a bandaid right next to me that I opened but didn’t use. Now I have the perfect use for it. I was planning to figure out how to disable the camera on my new work laptop, but now I don’t have to!

          3. Jessica (the celt)

            This is a great idea, Jamie! I kept a envelope sticker (one of those smaller round ones that you use to stick over the seal of an envelope when you’re sending cards and whatnot) on mine and it left a gunky residue that I had to clean off. I didn’t put anything back on after that (a few weeks ago), but I just went and got one of the funky adhesive bandages that I gave my husband for Christmas in his stocking and put it on there. It’s one of these (http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=22214118c ), and I took the one he’s least likely to use (Dance Off — which is more orange than it looks there). Now it doesn’t look quite as weird or obvious. Thanks!

      2. Joey

        That’s the new sneaky thing for employees who work out of their home- use skype to see if they’re actually actually on the road/at a clients location, etc or at home eating Bon bons. Of course they don’t say that.

      3. Yup

        It’s a paint-by-numbers style of managing that doesn’t involve a lot of rigorous thinking.

        Interestingly, I read an academic piece a few years ago about how the traditional hierarchical office setup (punishment for infractions/rewards for good behavior) is modeled on the prison system.

          1. Apollo Warbucks

            I work in an open plan office and we don’t even get a cube, the desks are all right next to each other in groups of six :(

      4. Ruffingit

        Amen. And this is why businesses lose good people. Responsible, hardworking adults (aka the people you WANT as employees) will not put up with this crap for long. As soon as they can get out, they will.

      5. Kelly O

        I really detest this. My current workplace is the worst about treating people like children, and then acting surprised when no one is falling all over themselves to do it the Company Way. Or come in on weekends to fix someone else’s problem.

        I also deal with an internet policy that blocks sites because they’re educational, or “online storage” so I can’t use Evernote anymore. And I can’t use Wi-Fi at the office either on my personal phone, even though I’m expected to text and call using that phone.

        Drives me nuts. And they’ll wonder why people don’t stay…

        1. Grace

          Spot on, Kelly O. Great book by Christine Pearson, Ph.D., and Christine Porath called “The Cost of Bad Behavior”. Very good videos by Christine Pearson on youtube about incivility (productively problems, turning-over, hiring, training, engagement, driving people to job-hunt and it may be several years between when they were treated badly and when they make their exit).

    3. Anonymous

      Man. I’d have failed work-from-home for sure then, what with the whole “living in a studio apartment” thing.

      And yet somehow I managed it for two full years in two different positions (as a full-time remote employee for an org in a different state). Imagine that.

    4. Meg

      That would bother the hell out of me. It’s the whole “suspicion without cause” thing that really gets to me. Why would he automatically assume that employees are goofing off and watching TV?

  6. Spiny

    Our company requires it to approve the secure handling of client information. Also to approve the safety setup- very big on ergo here.

  7. Sunflower

    It sounds like OP is mad that her husband is being treated differently than every other employee more so than the actual act of a home inspection. I would be a little irked if I was the only one in my dept asked to do a home inspection. Makes you feel like the boss doesn’t trust you.

  8. Carolyn

    These are all great points. I might have a little bit of a grudge against her for her bullying ways, and that’s why I’d rather her not come into our house.

    There are quite a few other contributing factors to my grudge, though. She’s allowed him to telework on weekends and after hours before when she needs something. However, now that he’s asking to make it part of his regular schedule, she suddenly needs to see the workplace. It’s odd to me.

    I think my husband is going to try to show his boss a picture of his work area to prove “safety,” and see where it goes from there.

    Thanks for the response and comments!

    1. Cat

      I agree that visiting your home is completely unreasonable, but I do think that telecommuting “after hours” is quite different from making it a regular part of your schedule, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have different sets of standards for those two things.

      1. RJ

        I disagree with this a little bit. Our department is not allowed to telework, while another comparable department in our company has their entire staff working remotely 100% of the time. However, our restriction on teleworking is theoretically lifted in case of an “emergency” when the office is closed. The idea that we can telework when it’s convenient for the company, but not when it’s convenient for ourselves, is troubling to me.

        1. Jamie

          I understand what you’re saying, but I agree with Cat that the standards are often different for after hours or ancillary work than part of your normal work week – if I understand her correctly.

          For the one off, after hours thing my only concern is that they remote in properly and don’t jeopardize network security – and if they have technical issues they can do whatever when they get back to the office, because this is outside of normal work time (obviously people for whom this occasional access is mission critical this more casual approach wouldn’t apply.)

          If you’re going to work from home for any percentage of your regular work week I have a checklist and I need to go over equipment, set up redirected printing, give a backup login procedure in case of issues with VPN, show how to test home internet connection to make sure the speed is adequate….all kinds of stuff I don’t bother to do if someone merely wants to work from home in the evenings once in a while.

          1. Cat

            Yeah, exactly – and even from a non-IT perspective, most companies have rules about things like not being responsible for childcare while working at home during normal hours. That doesn’t apply after hours where you may have to get something done but nobody expects you to find back-up childcare when you do it. Or, from a work perspective, there’s stuff that is a lot more efficient done from the office then from home; you can waive it or postpone it or take longer to do it on occasion, but that doesn’t mean your boss wants you doing that 100% of the time.

            I still disagree with the idea that bosses should expect to investigate a worker’s home, but just because someone occasionally remotes in to answer a query after hours, or just because they can work from home on a snow day, doesn’t mean there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to telecommute 100% of the time.

            1. Cat

              (Granted, I kind of have a bad attitude about telecommuting and am not always completely fair about it. I try to keep an open mind but I’ve been burned my co-workers who think they’re getting their job done just fine from home because they don’t think about the work they’re dumping on those of us who are still in the office.)

              1. Anonymous

                +++

                I don’t know how many times I have had to stop what I’m doing to look for something on someone’s desk, go over things that look relevant on the phone with that person, scan, then email. Because the person works at home. Or being required to drop what I am doing to cover for something that a telecommuter arranged but isn’t there to cover.

                At a previous job, I did not appreciate productivity comparisons between workers in the office and telecommuters. Of course telecommuters were more productive, simply because they did not have the “administrative” duties the rest of us had that were required to run a small business.. Dealing with hiring, training, compliance, IT, and so on takes time, and if you’re exempt from that because you’re not present, you better be a lot more productive with your project work

                1. KellyK

                  Ouch. Administrative duties really need to be planned out and assigned in a logical way, not just dumped on people because they happen to be there.

  9. MaryTerry

    What is this manager looking for? What is the purpose of the visit? I’d want a list ahead of time telling what she is inspecting for. Cleanliness? Safety? A desk? A separate area? A camera for Skype meetings? She’s just nosy and wants to see his house?

    1. hilde

      agreed – or at least asking what is important to the boss in terms of a home office space. Try to ge an idea of that beforehand so you can emphasize that you have those important pieces (to the boss anyway) in place or point them out if they are set up in a non-obvious or non-traditional way.

      1. Carolyn

        I’ll definitely tell him to ask this beforehand. I’m still hoping she doesn’t need to come to our house. If he can take a picture of his home workspace with all her requirements, though, that could negate the visit. Thanks!

  10. Carrie in Scotland

    Is it perhaps to risk assess the premises if he is going to be working full-time from home? To check that he is sitting at the right height etc for the computer screen and so on.

  11. Mena

    Your husband’s boss sounds quite junior, insecure, and immature. This silly micro-manager would do better to focus on the big picture – is he getting his job done and delivering value?

    But it is worth it if he can escape her one day a week. Allow the visit – is she has half a brain she will feel foolish.

  12. John

    I would be put off by this too, however, in every situation you have to make the best of it. In this case, this is a new supervisor, so you could view the home visit as an opportunity to get to know her better and start building a stronger bond.

  13. doreen

    Just because the US DOL doesn’t hold employers responsible for home office safety doesn’t mean state workers compensation laws don’t. A NYS State Insurance fund newsletter specifically states that workers comp covers work- related injuries to telecommuting employees as well as suggesting that employers conduct a home inspection, and mentions a court ordering compensation to a worker tripping over her dog as well as suggesting that employers conduct a home inspection ( And I know people who received WC for injuries sustained while on their way to work ). Under those circumstances ,I can understand why the employer would want to make sure the chair, monitor , etc are at the correct height and that wires across the floor aren’t causing a trip hazard.

      1. Joey

        All it takes is one telecommuter to be out of work on workers comp under questionable circumstances.

          1. doreen

            I don’t know that most are- but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be qualified to check some things. It’s my responsibility in the office to make sure there aren’t wires running across the floor to trip people , that boxes aren’t piled too high, that tiny personal refrigerators are placed on tables so the owner doesn’t have to bend down to get into them, that staff aren’t using unstable chairs, etc. No reason I couldn’t do the same in a home office . I don’t think most companies are worried about a house fire due to faulty wiring because that’s a fairly rare event. Tripping over wires is not so rare.

    1. J

      This is exactly what I came in to say. I wouldn’t be surprised if this starts happening more and more, because it’s an issue that’s starting to get attention all over the country in workers’ comp.

      A lot of places are getting uneasy about employees working in environments that the employer can’t control, because like Joey said below it only takes one case with a big settlement/award for everyone to start requiring a lot of C.Y.A. measures like inspections.

  14. Rat Racer

    I agree with previous posters that it sounds like this manager is trying to do everything she can think of to keep the OP’s husband from telecommuting. My concern would be that even if he jumps through her hoops (with or without the help of HR) it could damage his relationship with his (totally unreasonable) boss. I read somewhere (maybe it was AAM?) that whenever you go to battle with your boss, no matter the outcome, you lose.

    1. Rat Racer

      *Except in the rare circumstance that the conflict ends with your boss getting fired. I imagine that happens very rarely.

    2. Joey

      Yes. Bosses tend to win the little battles with individual employees. Usually it takes a pattern of problems (ie complaints/turnover, etc) or a fat error for the boss to lose.

  15. Anonymous

    I work for a company that has a very similar policy as the OP’s does. It’s a large, complex organization (Fortune 500). When I was relocating to another city last year, I flirted with the idea of working at home full-time and a manager visit was in fact part of the deal.

    I can’t speak for every company, but one of the main reasons mine required a site visit was because many associates were using work at home as an excuse not to pay for child care and they wanted to put a stop to it. In the agreement, it is very explicit that you cannot use it a substitute for childcare and if you’re caught doing so, you can risk termination.

    I had to show that I had a “dedicated” work area that was free from distractions (i.e. no TV, DVD, child running about, etc.).

    Working at home is not for everyone. It’s a privilege, not a right, and some people just aren’t able to work effectively at home as they are in an office setting.

    1. Joey

      But why would they care if you got your work done on the couch with a screaming toddler running around if you were a top performer?

      I would bet its more of a solution for poor manager skills.

      1. Cat

        Nobody (or close to nobody) is a top performer with a toddler running around screaming. You make the rule because it’s easier to set it up as an initial matter than it is to say “this isn’t working out; correct it” later on in 99.9% of cases.

      2. MaryMary

        My last company had a similar rule, and it was partially because we were very team-based. Even an associate who didn’t have any client contact would be expected to be on at least one conference call during the day. I’ve been on enough calls with barking dogs, traffic sounds, screaming children (from people with childcare emergencies) and other background noises to fully support that rule.

        In my opinion, no one can be a top performer with a screaming toddler running around. If you have a completely independent project, maybe you can be a top performer in the couple of hours your toddler is sleeping. But you can’t put in eight consecutive hours while caring for a small child on your own.

      3. Hooptie

        I guess it depends on how much of your work is phone-based. We’ve had a lot of snow and cold here lately, and while it was so nice to offer remote work to our staff when cars wouldn’t start and schools were closing, one person ended up taking PTO as her kids were screaming in the background while she was on the phone with customers.

        (I did recommend that she look into having a high school girl on call to keep the kids occupied and she is going to do so).

        1. the gold digger

          I did my conference calls with the Middle East from home early in the morning because I didn’t want my colleagues there to have to stay at work late. One morning, the cats were crying and crying – they were angry that I had shut them in the basement – and one of my UAE colleagues said, to the other local caller on the line, “I didn’t know you had a baby!”

          The local co-worker chimed in to explain that she did not have a baby but that I had a noisy cat.

          1. Hooptie

            Ha! Here’s the flip side to that…

            A few years ago, I was working in the office and was on the phone with an upset customer.

            A co-worker had brought her little boy in for the afternoon, and he was running up and down the middle aisle screeching and screaming.

            The lady on the phone was already upset, and when she heard the noise she went off on me about how unprofessional it was to have birds flying around our office, etc. etc. I tried explaining it was a little boy, and that made it even worse. It turned a phone call that I was THIS CLOSE to wrapping up into another 30 minutes of haranguing.

            But that still wasn’t as bad as the conspiracy theory lady who called in and was convinced that UFOs were landing on the roof of the building across the street…

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Still doesn’t seem reasonable to me. If someone wants to break that rule and it’s a planned site visit, wouldn’t the person just arrange not to have the kid there during it?

      1. Hooptie

        When I’ve ‘caught’ people who were trying to watch their kids and work at the same time, it has ALWAYS been over the phone and never planned. I called to clarify something or ask a question and you could hear the kids right next to the phone.

        On topic – we also require a picture of the work area, which must have a closeable door. I don’t care if it is an office or a table in your bedroom, but if you have roommates, kids, pets, or even occasional guests or visitors you have to be able to take calls without interruptions. Of course, you can’t expect people to be locked in there all day, which is why I don’t care if they work at the kitchen table or on the couch just as long as no one else is in the house.

        1. Cassie

          I work in a cubicle so I don’t have a closeable door when I’m at work. Why would that then be a requirement if I’m working from home?

          1. Hooptie

            Thanks for asking – it is to have a barrier from regular home noises if you are on the phone so that you are giving the impression of working in a professional environment.

            If there are no other people, pets, loud traffic, etc. I don’t care where they work as long as the people they interact with don’t know that they aren’t indeed sitting in a company office. But for fairness reasons, we require all employees working from home to have a closeable door. After all, you’ll never know when someone may have out of town relatives staying for a few days even if they don’t have kids or pets, etc.

            For example, if I am on a conference call, I close my home office door so that if my dogs bark it won’t come through on the call. The nice thing is that when I open the door they are usually sitting there waiting for me. And that’s one of the reasons I love working from home when I can! :)

    3. Anonymous

      Like you, I work for a Fortune 500, and part of their process for telecommuting is a home inspection. It’s partly for safety/ergonomics and partly for checking that equipment can be secured so that we don’t have an issue with HIPAA.

      1. Anonymous

        Anonymous – I’m wondering if we work for the same company. Does the word “vitality” mean anything to you? ;)

        AAM – That’s an excellent point. I suppose if someone really wanted to, they could arrange for their child/children not to be around the day of the home inspection.

        On my team, there are between 30-40 people. We all know who has children, who’s married, who’s single, etc. So, it would be pretty difficult for someone to “hide” having a child. Luckily, everyone on my team is pretty responsible and haven’t abused the working at home privileges. I do know of a lot of other areas within my company that have had issues though, which is why they felt the need to spell it out in the agreement.

        1. Anonymous

          Ha! No, vitality isn’t our word of the moment, but we definitely work in the same environment! I don’t work anywhere near any PHI, but I still get all the memos and have to do the annual training.

  16. Ash

    I’m required to have a separate office space for teleworking. Which I do. But most times I end up on the couch in another room with my laptop. What does it matter? I get my work done. I do my conference calls. Who cares if I’m on the couch or in my office?

  17. Elizabeth West

    My biggest problems with working from home are not falling asleep, and dealing with stiff muscles. The former is easy to prevent when I have some noise going on, i.e. music. (I usually only watch the TV when I’m on my lunch.) Re the latter, I actually get up more often when I’m in the office, unless my cat is whining outside for some reason (a bird or other cat scared her, she heard me in the bathroom or kitchen and thinks it’s food time, etc.).

    1. Emily K

      The best sunlight in my apartment is in my kitchen where a big picture window overlooks the backyard garden. When I’m feeling sleepy on a day I’m teleworking, I move my laptop from the desk in my room to my kitchen table next to the window and let sunlight work its magic on me.

  18. Mary

    My company has a process for teleworking. It doesn’t involve an in-person visit, but there are requirements for photos and documentation of your workspace, mostly to ensure it meets our ergonomic standards. People who work on higher security projects face higher levels of scrutiny, too. I don’t see anything wrong with making sure an employee has an adequate home office setup before agreeing to allow them to work from home.

  19. callitaday79

    I think it depends what industry you’re in. For example, I work in health insurance. Home inspections are required for associates who work at home to ensure HIPAA compliance and patient information is being safeguarded.

    1. Kou

      I’m in health care and we can telecommute without any inspections… I’m not sure what that would prove, since wouldn’t the most important safety measure there be how you’re connecting to their network? There’s no reason to need to check that in your house.

  20. WM

    I would assume this micromanaging boss is looking for the basis that make up a legitimate workspace:
    -An actual work space (desk/surface, phone, computer, etc.)
    -High speed internet access & possibly landline, if applicable
    -Room with a door (I know this is part of our telecommute policy)
    -Room that does not have a bed or TV in it. (This one might be a stretch, but I know for tax purposes you can’t write-off a home office if it has certain things in it; including a bed/tv. I assume this part is because the room is not solely used for office work, but in micromanaging boss’ mind – could be potential distractors.)

    Is childcare of concern? I know many telecommute policies specifically state that childcare must be provided during the times the employee is working from home. Doesn’t sound like that’s a factor in OP’s case, but you never know.

    Good luck, OP – with the option to WAH, and your boss! :)

    1. Carolyn

      Haha, we don’t have kids. And he has a separate office with a desk and internet access, a work phone and laptop, etc.

      Part of why I’m so miffed is that he has everything required to telecommute and has proven he can do it effectively, and she still wants to come into our home.

      I think it’s just a tactic to see if he’ll give up on his request. Hopefully the home workplace picture will be sufficient for her and prove he’s serious.

  21. Kimberlee, Esq.

    I’m confused that he’s been putting in this request for more than a year, but that right now it’s being refused by his “recently promoted” manager. Does that mean that his previous manager(s) also refused the request? Or does OP just have an expansive view of what “recently promoted” means?

    1. Carolyn

      That was my mistake in an attempt to keep the question as short as possible. She was promoted to her position before his request–without giving away too many details.

  22. BadPlanning

    Suddenly, I’m amused by how lax the standards are for home work at my job. They give you a laptop and you figure out the rest.

    1. the gold digger

      Yeah – my husband has been working from home for eight years. But he is an engineer with hard-to-find skills, so maybe that’s a factor. I am a dime a dozen MBA, so I can be replaced quite easily and hence spend my day in a small cubicle.

      1. the gold digger

        And what I meant to say was, his company sends him a new computer every few years and trust him to do his job. But nobody has ever inspected his office. (Which would be a challenge, as his boss is 1,000 miles away.)

  23. MaryMary

    Some people are just strongly against the idea of working from home. My boss dragged himself into the office last summer when he had a faceful of poison ivy (don’t ask) instead of working from home for a couple of days like we suggested. I’d suggest seeing if your husband could get his manager to articulate her concerns about working from home, and try to address them. Maybe he could suggest a trial period of working from home, or emphasize that he’s only requesting one day a week.

      1. MaryMary

        There was a lot of mystery, but we believe his dog rolled in a patch of poison ivy, and then my boss snuggled his dog.

        I have a question for you: does CE have to do with retirement calculations? I might have worked for your employer in the past.

  24. Tiff

    I had to supply a copy of my home owner’s insurance and a pic of my workspace when I telecommuted. Those were required by risk management. If the boss is looking for an inspection to be completed, wouldn’t it make more sense that someone from risk management completes it?

    It sounds like the manager doesn’t want to allow him to telework, for whatever reason. And she’s being really passive aggressive about it.

  25. klein

    Wow, “your husband could loop HR into this”

    This is a statement by someone who has obviously never looped HR into anything. HR works for the company, not the employee. They are there, along with the legal department, to cover the company’s behind. They will also side with the manager in every case where legal action is not a threat. When legal action becomes a threat, they will at least feign interest in your side of things until a case has been built against you in whatever way possible so that you can not take action against them. While the issue at hand here is not a major one, I mention all of this just to point out how going to HR is never going to be your answer.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Of course HR works for the company, not the employee. That’s why I rarely recommend going to HR for most letters here. But plenty of HR departments would tell the manager that the home visit request wasn’t appropriate, if in fact it wasn’t appropriate at that company.

    2. Joey

      Not really. HR is on your side when what you want is in the best interest of the company. And they are against managers when it’s in the best interest of the company. Only shitty HR people will support every move a manager wants to make or made.

      In summary, HR is loyal to the company, not managers and not employees.

  26. Anonymous

    To “Do we typically do home inspections?” You might add, “If so, what are the corporate requirements?” & “Who would handle the inspection?”
    It would be a lot more pleasant to have a list of (satisfied) requirements prepared to take into conversation with the boss – or confirmation that home inspections are not required.

  27. Cassie

    I would definitely try to get a list of things the supervisor will check for during the inspection. You could phrase it as a “what should my home-work-area include?” and the stuff the supervisor tells you should theoretically be the stuff she’s there to see.

    After reading everyone’s comments above, I think these home inspections are a bit like airport security theater. The employer can go and inspect the house and make sure everything is in order – a desk, a room with a door, child care arrangements, high-speed internet, check check and check. But when it comes to the actual telework – the employer isn’t going to be able to monitor every single second of the remote worker’s workday.

    This is not to say that an employer should just let any worker telecommute, without any regard to the worker’s available outside resources, but I think there needs to be some level of trust too. If I’m required to have “reliable transportation” to get to and from work, I wouldn’t expect my employer to inspect my car. Even if my car is used for an occasional work trip.

  28. MR

    There is just no reason for the manager to do this.

    I’d bet the manager is new and really has no idea what she is doing. There is probably other stuff going on that is going to be annoying the husband.

  29. Susan Graham

    Very creepy! If it meant an opportunity for telecommuting, I would allow it. Still, very odd. If I were the boss, I’d be embarrassed. Perhaps there were problems in the past that would have been eliminated if a home office had been expected prior?

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