The world of business has been evolving at a rapid pace over the past two decades. But none of us was prepared for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pandemic recruitment isn’t just something we’ll do for the next few months; it’s a new way of hiring that we’ll have to adapt to going forward. We won’t be doing it for a while and then go back to how we did things before. Remote hiring and telecommuting will become the norm.
What does this mean for employers?
Current statistics show that 44% of companies still don’t allow remote work at all. It’s estimated that 73% of organizations will have some form of remote work by 2028. The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly going to alter these remote work statistics calling for a review of those numbers before the end of 2020.
While many employers recognize the value of flexibility and already allow work from home and flexi-time benefits, few have appropriate remote work policies in place.
Why is this so important?
When employees are working from remote locations, they will have financial, legal, and possible tax implications. Also, for employees to understand their working conditions and be productive, there must be telecommuting guidelines.
We can’t just verbally agree that people can work from home. Remote work policies must be formalized.
A telecommuting policy will have to be multifaceted, open to review, and assessed regularly. There can’t be a single policy that applies to all remote work because each job role differs. Not all positions are suitable for telecommuting, and not every employee can adapt either.
Each staff member that opts for remote working will have to enter into a telecommuting agreement that’s drafted specifically for their role and circumstances.
Essentials that must be considered
Before drafting the foundation of your remote work policy, some essentials have to be established. The system must be developed by executive management, HR, finance, IT, and legal experts.
Here are things to consider:
- How many positions in your company qualify for telecommuting?
- What are the legal implications for employees working remotely?
- What are the risks to sensitive company and customer information?
- What insurance is available to cover data breaches or personal injury?
- How will telecommuting affect remuneration, taxes, and employee benefits?
- How will remote employees be managed and also kept engaged with their teams?
- What tools will be used to manage performance and maintain communication channels?
- How will employee working hours, rewards, and promotions be structured and managed?
- What investment are the company willing to put into ongoing training and upskilling of staff?
- What investment is the company willing to make to set employees up for working remotely?
- How will employees be assessed to confirm their suitability for remote working and working from home in particular?
Why these considerations matter
Companies and industries differ. Not every role qualifies for telecommuting.
Manufacturing is an example. Staff on a production line have to report for work because most equipment is immovable. Packaging, warehousing, and dispatch can’t be done remotely. Deliveries, marketing, sales, and finance, however, can be done remotely. For example, delivery drivers and assistants can collect stock assigned to individual bays and leave for the day. Proof of delivery documents gets signed electronically and automatically downloaded via a cloud-based app. Returns are handled the same way, and the driver can exchange stock the next day.
Marketing, telesales, and finance staff can efficiently work from home if they have the right equipment and software. They need only come into the office occasionally for team building and meetups, training and company events, or not at all.
For these systems to work, though, all processes must be integrated and managed. Technology is going to play an essential role in remote working, so both employer and employee must be able to adapt.
There’s little value in equipping an employee with tech to work remotely if they don’t fully understand how it works. The same applies to management. Line managers must know how all tech solutions work to be able to manage remote teams properly.
10 rules found in great remote working policies
Once you’ve established the essentials, you can set about drafting a core remote work policy with addendums for different roles and circumstances. Remote work allows employees to work in any location that’s away from company premises for a few days a month or permanently. This includes working from home, on the road, or from a remote office center.
These 10 rules must be included in your telecommuting policies together with others that relate to your specific industry or employee circumstances.
1. All remote work agreements must be subject to a trial and notice period
A three month trial period to measure success is reasonable, and a two week notice period should be enough to retract an agreement. During the trial period, management must give employees every support to ensure that they succeed. Policies should make provision for an agreement to be withdrawn by an employee or by management. An agreement that is retracted during the trial period mustn’t be seen as a failure because mostly it’s due to operational or practical reasons.
2. Mutual agreement
Both management and employees can suggest remote work. Neither party should coerce the other into an agreement. Telecommuting can be suggested for practical reasons or personal circumstances. It can be a long-term agreement or for a short period only. For example, an employee could be recuperating from a medical procedure that impedes their mobility, but they’re fully capable of doing their job. An occasional flexible working from home agreement would be ideal until they’re fully mobile again.
3. Company investment in equipment must be consistent
Each role will require different hardware and software for an employee to carry out their responsibilities successfully. People working remotely in similar roles must be given the same equipment. For staff working from home who need a computer and reliable internet connection, say, the equipment and costs must be covered by the company. If someone already has suitable equipment at home, they should be reimbursed through a monthly stipend equivalent to the estimated costs provided to those who don’t.
4. Working from home guidelines
Working from home can be very beneficial because it improves work-life balance and leads to higher productivity. It can also be a disaster. Employers must ensure that an employee has the operational setup, support, and ability to be productive at home. Many things need to be considered, such as:
- Childcare – is the employee going to be distracted by their family, or do they have adequate support?
- Security – is their workstation available for anyone in the household to use? This is particularly important if the employee already has their own equipment and opts for a stipend. Having multiple users accessing a computer puts sensitive data at risk. A solution would be to provide all the necessary equipment. Then enter into a legally binding agreement that it’s for business purposes only, and no one else can use it.
- Environment – if the employee interacts with customers, it’s particularly important that their working environment is professional. Background noise like music, children, and barking dogs are part of home life, but in business, they can damage your brand image.
5. Each agreement must clearly communicate all terms and conditions
Vague wording is open to misinterpretation that can harm both employer and employee. All agreements must be legally binding and consistent for similar roles. HR and line managers must discuss every telecommuting policy with each employee to ensure that it’s clear to everyone involved. Also, be willing to listen to employee suggestions and consider them.
6. Job responsibilities
Employees who qualify for remote work or WFH policy agreement must have their job responsibilities reviewed, amended, and agreed upon. Their original job description will probably change because it could include things that could only be done in the working environment, such as “collect orders from the sales department.” The wording might need to be changed to “download orders…” or completely removed. For line managers and HR to manage a remote workforce successfully, there can be no room for misunderstanding.
7. Performance management
Performance management software is essential to set goals, review productivity, and measure success. User-friendly performance management apps also allow employees and managers to keep in touch on a daily or weekly basis. Everyone knows how things are going down, and no one feels left out.
8. Communication tools
Telecommuting policies must include various communication channels to keep employees connected with their teams, customers, and also socially. Working remotely shouldn’t mean that communication slows down. Tools must consist of apps for quick team communication, channels for customer communication, and online conferencing. Team meetings must be set up to collaborate on new and existing projects and separate meetings held for team catch-ups and socializing. Also, don’t forget training apps and follow up sessions to evaluate the quality of the training as well as progress.
9. Working hours
The hours of work stipulated in an original employment contract will probably still apply, but revisit them when you sign a new remote work agreement. Remember, the employee can’t say to a colleague, “I’m just popping out” anymore. You need to stipulate the hours during which an employee must be readily available to communicate with team members and customers. Add a clause that states that they must advise their manager if they’re unavailable during those hours for any reason. Also, if employees are paid overtime, it’s essential to specify that overtime must be pre-approved to qualify for payment.
10. Change the measures of success
The success of a remote workforce has more to do with productivity and results than hours worked. Measure success by the number of inquiries converted to sales, for example. Or the number of deliveries made or customer queries resolved.
To sum it up
Remote working is going to increase! It’s something that companies will have to embrace, prepare for, and adapt their recruitment. Technology will be the driving force, so organizations will have to bring themselves up to speed, starting with an applicant tracking system, quick communication apps, video conferencing tools, and secure cloud-based solutions.
Your remote work policy must include clauses to protect all equipment, software, apps, and access passwords given to employees. The onus must be on individuals to ensure the safety of company property and information.