Remote Working – the Future of Work?Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 14 April 2020
In this ever-changing environment, the area of remote working or working from home has never been more topical. This is a concept that many organisations have embraced recently, albeit by necessity rather than by choice, in a very short timeframe. It has become the new way of working for many, but there are important steps to take to ensure that it works for everyone.
As with all advice to employers, the first step in getting this right is to look at your policy. Is there a remote working policy in place? Is it up to date? Is it as clear and concise as it needs to be?
If remote working was only recently introduced in your organisation, it’s important that this policy is developed and communicated to all staff. If you have a policy in place, it should be reviewed and reissued to all.
This policy should include details on the “rules of engagement”, health and safety considerations, and IT Security and GPPR.
Whether or not remote working is a new concept or not for your business, it is important to set guidelines for employees on what is expected when working from home. Set clear expectations for work hours, availability, communication methods, meetings, key projects and deadlines, and responding to emails. This may require you to show examples of what you expect to be done, and an overview of how the team will schedule their day. You should clarify the basics in order to ensure everyone understands their role and how each person contributes to team objectives. Clarifying and re-clarifying goals will help people understand what is expected of them.
Being put into a remote working environment, as a manager it can be tempting to micromanage. After you have set clear expectations, you must have faith in the employee that they will get the job done. Being trusted to get things done is a big motivator for people.
This may have been an abrupt shift to remote work for many, it is important for managers to acknowledge that this transition might be difficult for employees. Listen to your employees’ anxieties and concerns and offer them encouragement and support.
One of the key challenges that employees have recently experienced with working from home is the adjustment to working alone, rather than within a group or office environment. Workers are learning more and more how the social aspect of work may not have been fully appreciated until now. It’s really important that employees working remotely are constantly communicating with the rest of the team and with their manager as many are missing the social interaction that work brings. Take advantage of the multitude of online connection platforms and continue with daily or weekly team briefings via conference call or video conferencing.
It is also vital to remember that the rules around confidentiality and GDPR still apply when remote working. This is an important consideration not just in relation to your IT systems, but also to your employees’ behaviours and work practices. Regular reminders of this can be integrated into briefings and it can be as simple as reminding employees to take confidential calls away from other members of their household and to treat any confidential documents as they would when at work.
Similarly, as an employer you still have an obligation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all of your team when working remotely. All necessary equipment should be provided to employees to ensure that they can work safely and comfortably from home.
All of your obligations as an employer still apply to your employees when working from home. How are you recording your employees’ working hours and breaks? Again, a reminder during briefings can be useful here to check that everyone is taking regular breaks and not working outside of their normal hours to excess. We must remember that all employees have the right to disconnect, so all team members need to be reminded of this so as not to encroach on others’ home life.
So, the question on everyone’s mind is “is remote working the future of work?” – will this become the “new normal”? There is no doubt that there are many advantages to remote working. The flexibility that it allows means that the talent pool becomes much larger. An organisation can cast the net wider when recruiting the best people. Many who could not commit to a commute or structured office hours for family or other reasons can still have a valuable input into the business where flexibility is increased. The business itself could expand and scale up to a whole new level if this is embraced. There are a multitude of supports that can be made available to employees to make this work and to guarantee productivity. This can be development in the area of time management or training in the latest technology, to tips in the area of balancing work life balance or guidance on how to switch off from work once the working day is done. Of course, it’s not without challenges, but with the correct planning, monitoring, supporting and engagement it could be the biggest win-win situation to come out of what has been an otherwise the most challenging time of any business to date.
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.