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Remote work changes workplace issues and work relationships

Remote work took center stage in March of 2020. Data reveal that the future of remote work involves new expectations for both employers and employees. Age, above all other factors, separates how employees value the new dynamics of work and relationships between colleagues and supervisors. Altogether, these changes can have legal implications as well.

Productivity increased in 2021

Data from 2021 revealed positive impacts for both employers and employees. Workers worked one more day per week, were 47% more productive and spent less time per day being unproductive. Fewer interruptions from their colleagues and less office politics and no commute accounted primarily for the increase. Workplaces responded with return-to-work, hybrid or continued remote work options.

Millennials dominate the workforce in ideas and numbers

In 2022, Millennials comprised the largest generation in the workforce. Unlike Baby Boomers, their priorities—a comfortable work environment, flexible work schedules and a better work-life balance—expect some remote work as an option for a position. Options companies have to adapt to remote work demands include:

  • Setting up a centralized information system
  • Training all employees on a messaging platform
  • Ensuring employees have initiative to work remotely

Health issues and Retaliation in Texas

A recent court case highlights how remote work in a specific context affects the application of employment law in Texas. A plaintiff alleged the City of Houston violated the Texas Whistleblower Act (TWA) by terminating her employment. The plaintiff had reported to the Houston City Council her concerns that the city had failed to exercise oversight of policies applicable to city employees during the pandemic.

The plaintiff complained to the City Council that the absence of a telecommuting policy failed to comply with Governor Abbott’s executive order encouraging offices “where feasible,” employees to “work from home….” Multiple e-mails plaintiff sent to a City Councilmember noting her concerns purportedly went unanswered. The City terminated plaintiff’s employment one day after a request for information regarding a voluntary furlough.

Analyzing the TWA in the context of governmental immunity, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals overruled the lower court’s decision. While acknowledging the absence of the specified appeal procedure, the appellate court cited cases that supported the City’s argument requiring an employee under TWA to notify the entity of intent to challenge her termination administratively.

Experience matters

Demographics, technology and the law contribute to workplace dynamics that change continually. Expectations of both employers and employees in the new workplace will accelerate the changes. Attorneys who understand the relationship can offer guidance.