Updating Job DescriptionsThis week I have been working with one of my Virginia-based clients. We are capturing the employees’ accomplishments for 2020 and also updating job descriptions. Just like many of us,  this 10-person firm started work from home in March and have been back in the office only occasionally. 

Chances are, the same has happened in your organization. Work today is quite different from a year ago. The pandemic pushed millions of Americans to work from home. The pandemic has changed where the work gets done.  It might also have changed the scope of the work and how work gets done.

As we work from home, it’s more important than ever to capture the essential functions of what we ask workers to perform. Clearly outlining roles and responsibilities helps everyone understand expectations. Now that we spend less time in-person, having clear roles and responsibilities, put in writing, is important. This also provides a measure of what success looks like.

It is good practice to revisit job descriptions at least every other year. Given how much the world has changed around us, the need to review job descriptions is even more urgent now. Plan to review your job descriptions this quarter or even this month! Read my most read blog on the Six Common Problems with Job Descriptions to get you started.

Although the HR textbook recommends that job descriptions based on the results of a job analysis, I find that a structured conversation with job holders work quite well. I have a list of questions. In order to capture the scope and scale of each position, I like to focus on recurring tasks, projects, reporting lines.
 One of my favorite questions is to ask employees to identify their “big rocks,” what they are responsible for moving forward on the job. Once we have established the laundry list, we attempt to group related items under headings such as Supervision, Project Management, Daily Operations, Data Tracking, and Reporting.

For more on how to create (or update) your job descriptions, check out my Job Description Toolkit. It contains all of my best advice and practical templates so you can handle job descriptions like a pro!

In 2020, our work processes changed. This needs to be addressed in job descriptions. It’s also time to reassess the skills needed to perform the job. Skills required to work from home are probably new for some positions: learning and using digital tools, strong writing and communication skills, ability to troubleshoot IT equipment. In terms of abilities, being a self-starter and able to work collaboratively have now risen to the top of many job requirements. 

Updating job descriptions for remote work – Practical considerations

Clarify the Location Of  Work

A common misconception about remote work is that someone can live anywhere. Since the start of the pandemic, many large metro areas across the country report an urban exodus. Consider if you have location requirements. Taxation rules, state and local employment laws still impact remote workers. Employees who work from home might still live within reach of your offices for occasional in-person meetings or near their client base. If so, consider adding a sentence such as “work remotely within a 100-mile radius of Location X.”

Specify Other Important Requirements

Beyond a geographical location, remote work may have additional requirements. For example, someone handling sensitive personal information (say your HR coordinator) may not be allowed to work from the coffee shop. Even if the work doesn’t involve sensitive information, you may not want staff logging into company servers from a public wi-fi connection. Include specifics such as “Because you will be handling confidential information, work has to be performed from a home office, and should never be done in a public location (like a coffee shop or the library).”

Equipment Required

If you expect employees to provide their own equipment, spell out that requirement clearly in the job description. Also, define what software programs are used. While many things are cloud-based these days, you may still require staff to have certain licenses to access these programs. Define what they should have and who is paying for it.

Work Hours When Working Remotely

While some positions offer flexibility and control over daily schedules, staff may still have to be accessible and responsive during your core business hours. Work from home often comes with some flexible hours but it doesn’t preclude mandatory meetings. Make sure those are included in the job description. No need to list specific dates and times. Simply state “Must attend weekly department meetings” or, “Required to attend company retreat twice a year.”