How to Maintain Productivity and Communicate Effectively During Remote Working

Posted in : Webinar Recordings on 7 May 2020
Caroline McEnery
The HR Suite
Issues covered:

As homeworking becomes the new norm during the Coronavirus outbreak, Caroline McEnery (Managing Director of The HR Suite, former member of the Low Pay Commission and is also an Adjudicator in the Workplace Relations Commission) and Rolanda Markey (Legal Island) discuss tips to ensure that employers and employees get the most out of homeworking and also discuss the challenges that could arise.

In this webinar recording Caroline McEnery discuss how to maintain productivity & how to communicate effectively during remote working.

Contents

  1. It’s Remote Working, But Not As We Know It
  2. Reviewing Remote Working Arrangements
  3. Setting Goals for Remote Working
  4. Issues Arising With Remote Working
  5. Using Technology to Maximise Engagement
  6. Review Your Remote Working Policy
  7. Communication Strategy for Remote Working
  8. Data Protection Issues
  9. Wellbeing of Remote Workers
  10. Risk Assessments
  11. Personal Issues arising for Remote Workers
  12. Q&A

The Recording

The Transcript

Rolanda: Good afternoon. And welcome to our webinar with Rolanda Markey from Legal Island and Caroline McEnery monitoring director off The HR Suite. Caroline is a past member of the Low Pay Commission and is also an adjudicator in the Workplace Relations Commission. She has completed a masters in Human Resources at the University of Limerick. She is CIPD accredited as well as being a trained mediator.

Caroline has worked across various areas of human resources over 20 years including in the Kerry Group and then the retail and hospitality sectors where she was the operations and HR director also the Garvey Group prior to setting up The HR Suite in 2009. She speaks widely and writes articles on papers on thought leadership in relation to the future landscape of HR and the challenges and opportunities that presents for employers and employees.

We are grateful to Caroline for agreeing to do this webinar series to provide some important guidance for employers and dealing with the many employment issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic. In today's webinar Caroline will focus on how to maintain productivity and how to communicate effectively during remote working. Okay. So just over to you, Caroline.

Caroline: Thanks, Rolanda. I appreciate it. So good afternoon, everybody. I hope all is going well with you today and I suppose we're delighted to talk to you and give you a little bit of maybe the key insights into what is new remote working. We're also conscious that for lots of you, you've been doing lots of webinars, so we try and make sure that we make it as relevant and as beneficial for you as we can.

So we're going to cover remote working in general in today's webinar, but also we're going to touch on some of the specific challenges maybe from an HR perspective. So we're going to cover productivity first, then we're going to talk about the different types of the HR functions and how we can maximise them remotely and then we're going to look at health and safety and wellbeing also.

Back to Top

It’s Remote Working, But Not As We Know It

So I suppose the key starting point is we all know that this isn't normal remote working, and it's very much kind of a challenging remote working for more people that are doing it because instead of doing it ad hoc one day a week here and there that people might have had in terms of an arrangement that worked very well, people now are doing it with children and challenges in terms of getting broadband, etc., because there's so many people in the household, maybe all vying for the same internet and also the same space in terms of noise management, etc.

We also, I suppose, appreciate that for some people they're really miss the social interaction that being at work would have given them. And we're starting to identify lots of issues and problems, some of which I'm going to give you some examples of as the webinar goes on.

Back to Top

Reviewing Remote Working Arrangements

So I suppose the first area around productivity is it's a really good time now to take stock and do a review meeting with any employees you have that are doing remote working and the ideal person to do that is the person's line manager.

So we would hope that the person's line manager could do a check in with them to basically identify what's working well from a remote working point of view, what's not working so well and what are the opportunities and areas for improvement? Because for some people, the times they're doing the remote working are not working, for others, it's a case that they're trying to work with others who are working different hours and as a result they're working way too many hours themselves and they don't get the opportunity to switch off. So it's important that we look at what's working well, what's not working so well and what to we now need to tweak and do we need to change.

Back to Top

Setting Goals for Remote Working

The other area in relation to maximising productivity is to help people get into good work practices now in relation to their work plan. So setting realistic goals, making sure that we do task meeting with everybody on a weekly basis as a line manager and assessing, I suppose a timeline in relation to what might be done.

So, we're, I suppose advocating to use a default diary. And a default diary basically means a very basic system of setting time into your diary and ensuring everything gets a timeslot. So again, we're trying to be preventative and helpful in terms of giving tips to employees to make this work as best we can because we're starting to notice now that line managers, I'm sure you're finding the same coming back to HR to say, "Listen, Mary is doing remote working and it's really not working for me because she's not achieving the deadlines or she's not responding back to emails that you should be," etc. So I would say really important that we go back into good basics around time management.

The next thing is to help look at what is urgent versus what is important. Because we've been dealing with a kind of crisis in life in general, people are also dealing from a work point of view we find in crisis mode. So again, we're helping them do the concept of what's actually important to get done today rather than just responding to every email that comes in and actually it's more important projects that are really important are not getting done.

And the last, I suppose, key tip in relation to the area of productivity is to encourage people to eat the frog and work to their circadian rhythm. So we that we're most productive in the mornings. So first thing in the morning, we generally should be getting a quick look at the emails, seeing if anything urgent has come in and then basically allocating time, so a start time and an end time to basically look at what is the project that you need to work on that requires most attention to detail and you know, that's really important to get done and make sure the person is focused at eating the frog and getting that done that morning. Because we're finding that a lot of people are saying, "Listen, I'll be distracted, the washing machine's on or the kids, etc. So that's frog I'm actually kicking on from one day to the next day to the next day," and as a result, it's causing real productivity issues from a staff perspective.

The other point I made there was in relation to the default diary, which is allocated timeslot to things. So for example, if the person is working from 7 to 12 and then they're taking a break from 12 to 2 and they're working the rest of the hours in the afternoon, we know all the times they're available and we also have allocated timeslots that we might do a catch up with them, we might do a check-in with them. And also we know when they're going to get to specific tasks.

Back to Top

Issues Arising With Remote Working

I suppose the whole reason we're talking about the tips in terms of proactiveness is those issues that are being highlighted around productivity. So if we have concerns in that regard, how are we going to address them?

So the first approach needs to be that psychic management doesn't work and the fact we're all working remotely now, it's even more challenging for managers to ensure that employees get effective and timely feedback. So the first point in relation to proactive feedback is to make sure that we're not presuming that the person is clear in relation to our expectations when that's not the case.

So again, try and make sure that you are giving very clear guidance in relation to what is it that you have in terms of expectations and what it is you have in relation to time allocation also. So if there are issues associated to with somebody's performance, I would start by asking the person how they are getting on because at the minute we're finding that the issues associated with their productivity are not normal issues associated with productivity. They're genuinely finding the distraction very difficult. They're finding, you know, the balance isn't working for them. They're finding that the technology or the broadband isn't working for them. So start from the point of how do you see this going in terms of what are the challenges for you.

And then I'd start to outline your concerns in relation to availability, in relation to a work output, in relation to goals being achieved, in relation to communication, etc. But then I would be doing a drawing the line in the sand conversation to say, "Okay, well, we've identified now what we need to improve. Let's schedule a follow-up call next Friday to see how things have gone in the next week and a half or so."

Because for a lot of people, that lack of feedback has been probably something that has made them anxious themselves because most employees would equally know that it's not working well for the company, you know, before you ever say it. So that would be my first conversation.

I would also ask what support we can put in place. And again, I would then document that so I dropped them an email to say, "Dear, Caroline, following on from our Zoom call," or whatever it is you've done, "I'd like to confirm what we discussed and agreed."

The importance of that email can't be underestimated and again, is more important now because when we've had more ability to do one-to-one communication, it's obviously easier to ensure this clarity of message whereas now in the absence of that we're really trying to make sure that's proactively we're making sure that the person is very clear in relation to what's been agreed. And sometimes if we've discussed a number of things and maybe haven't been as clear as we'd like, the person might actually be thinking, "Well, that was not a big deal for you," so I think it's important that we go and we revisit that from a performance and a productivity perspective.

Back to Top

Using Technology to Maximise Engagement

The next thing I would say to you is the more visual contact you do, the better. So we have great technology in place now to facilitate us to do as much visual as we can and the more the visual we do, the better it is. So again, try and make sure that we facilitate that so that there is, you know, visual contact so that the person can see you. And, you know, if for example they're saying, "Well, I don't want use that technology," or, "I don't know how," or "I don't want to do it," etc. Because we know now this remote working is going to be based on the government guidelines, it's recommended that for roles that can do remote working, it should continue well past the 10th of August.

So we see this as something that's going to be very much on the horizon going forward. And potentially for some roles that remote working doesn't suit properly, we might have a mix of office and remote working. Well, this definitely will be staying on the horizon going forward.

Back to Top

Review Your Remote Working Policy

So the next area I would say is the important of reviewing your remote working policy. A lot of organisations will have had a remote working policy in place both the change in the fact that people have changed their working hours, there might be, you know, a lot of other factors now that have coming to bear. I would recommend reviewing your remote working policy.

I would recommend you encouraging that staff would do a risk assessment of their own ergonomic setup in their home and help you identify whether or not this is suitable location for remote working to continue for them. And it's important that we have, again, a paper trail in that regard. So make sure you do a good risk assessment in terms of, you know, giving them guidance in relation to an appropriate area, an appropriate place in relation to how they will manage remote working.

And basically, I suppose if the person comes back and says, "Well, actually I'm doing this at the side of my bed because I share a house with three others and we we're all in our bedrooms and I had no desk," etc., well, then you need to look at the timeline in terms of the five phases of return to see what does that return look like in your organisation because the remote working arrangements that your staff members have may not be suitable to continue it going forward. And as I say, there might be a mix of it or there might be none of it, etc., but that risk assessment and that ergonomic review is going to help you in that decision making process.

The other considerations from a health and safety perspective are also if your employee potentially is in a vulnerable medical situation or if they have issues associated with childcare, etc., obviously, you will be getting an update now in terms of people's ability to facilitate return to work in the office in line with the five phase stages of return that have been outlined by the government.

For some staff members, for whatever reason they might be highlighting that they're not in a position to return. If that's the case, we need to identify if you're happy that remote working can work productively and wellbeing wise, etc., for both the organisation and the employee or how are you going to manage that now that you have a roadmap for the time ahead?

I suppose from a health and safety point of view also it's important to get a log of the person's working time so that you know the person is compliant with the Organisation of Working Time Act. And we know that a lot of the breaches, for example, in the Kepak case got a lot of commentary when it was published recently and is associated with people who are working remotely and feel the need to be switched on all the time. On that, I suppose challenge in relation to recording time in line with the Organisation of Working Time Act is a real challenge when you're not quite sure what time is the person's logging in, what time they're sending emails, etc. So it will be good to get them to send in . . . obviously we're doing their default diary to plan their week in advance but then they're sending in some form of a time sheet to be compliant with the Organisation of Working Time Act.

It's also important we're encouraging and facilitating people to take breaks. One of the I suppose challenges with all the Zoom calls and all the different things that are going on. Because people are now saying, actually, I didn't get to take a lunch break today because I went from one call to know the call and I didn't have time, etc.

So again, now that we're coming to a new normal of remote working within the organisation, we need to put those measures and those parameters in place so that it does meet our legal obligations in relation to duty of care to our employees and the Organisation of Working Time Act obligations for employees and also to assist from a wellbeing perspective that they are getting that opportunity for rest and recuperation and they're not as turned on all of the time.

I think it's really important that you reflect all of these additional considerations whether that's health and safety risk assessment, ergonomics, Organisation of Working Time Act, etc., into your new remote working policy. And for a lot of organisations that new remote working policy might be a case of saying so we've updated the policy that would remain in place until the coronavirus pandemic eases and we'll give you a further update then so that we're not committing that all of this will remain, because for some organisations they're feeling that the remote working is an essential business continuity measure rather than something that is actually working to suit the role or based on feedback from staff, they're saying, actually we prefer to be in the office.

So again, update your policy, but update it in a way that you're reflecting the fact that you're updating to facilitate the current situation and that you will review it again at later date as a result.

I suppose in these scenarios, the other kind of elements around getting an update from staff in relation to their broadband, their connectivity, you know, how well it's working from a technology point of view, is very timely because for a lot of organisations they're now introducing new technologies to manage this better because again, they see it as something that's going to work more longer term in the organisation.

Back to Top

Communication Strategy for Remote Working

The next area to consider is the importance of communication and the communication strategy with our team at this time. So if you have people working remotely, the importance of doing a company town hall update can't be underestimated, which basically means that we're giving staff an update in relation to the company position so they still feel that they're connected to the overall organisation and they're not concerned in relation to the future and what's happening or if there are concerns that we're keeping them abreast of what's going on in relation to those concerns.

So again, it's really important that there's a town hall type, a companywide communication that can be done via a webinar, WebEx, Zoom, etc., but the more visual it is, the better. And again, allowing people the opportunity to dial into that call is really helpful.

It's also important to put in place guidelines for virtual huddles and online check-ins from a manager and a team point of view because if we don't put in a guideline, generally some managers will be really good at doing the virtual check-in or they'll be really good at doing the daily hurdle but other managers may not.

Whereas if we guide what we need in terms of the communications, I think it would be very helpful to ensure everybody's getting, you know, enough communication, because you'll all know in any of the HR surveys we do, communication is always in the top three to say, "We don't get enough communication can we have more?" And particularly now when the person is working remotely that communication piece is one of the key ingredients to help retain them and also help with morale and connectivity. So look at what you're doing in that regard and again, I would encourage that you give guidelines to managers in relation to the meetings they should be having.

And it's also really important to encourage a virtual open-door policy both with HR and with line managers because we're finding that the amount of ER issues has decreased a lot. Obviously, there's still cases going to the WRC but we are noticing the number of internal grievances, etc., even though there's a lot of them going on, they're definitely reduced.

So again, what you don't want to do is not have people expecting that they can go back and highlight an issue if they have one. So again, make sure that you explain that the virtual open-door style is still in place. And a lot of organisations have set allocated times to say, look, somebody going to be available on Zoom. You can just log in and do a one to one at any stage. It could be Q&A type session or for example, there's a wellbeing session on which you can also just attend any day. It's on at this time, etc. So again, you're organising and facilitating specific timeslots so people can understand that that virtual open-door policy is there both from an HR point of view and from an individual manager's perspective.

Back to Top

Data Protection Issues

I suppose in relation to data protection and the whole area of GDPR, there's been a lot of concerns in relation to breaches where staff members have had both hard-copy and soft copy information in their homes that might be shared with others, etc. So again, I would suggest that you do a GDPR update to your staff in line with that update of the remote working policy. Again, it will be good practice to incorporate that into your coronavirus overall staff policy. And this remote working policy can be part of that, your GDPR can be part of that, your risk assessment can be part of that so you have a one-stop shop with all the information that's relevant to remote working in that one policy in that coronavirus area.

The other thing in relation to data protection is as an organisation, you've got to be seen that you've done everything you can to keep your data safe and secure. So again, doing a checklist with your staff to ask them what data do they have, what are they doing to ensure it's being kept safe and secure can facilitate you from a risk assessment point of view to identify if there's any other measures that you could put in place to help address that. So again, a very important area to consider from a remote working perspective.

Back to Top

Wellbeing of Remote Workers

In relation to wellbeing then, and then we'll have a look at some of the questions you've been sending in. And again, Rolanda is happy to take any of the questions. So please do use your questions box that you have available to you. I suppose the other key thing in relation to a remote working is the importance of ensuring that people are still aware of the company core values and the company ethos in relation to staff wellbeing and maintaining that social connection with staff. So again, the brand, the values, you know, making sure we're bringing that to life in the one team concept.

Again, for some people, they're managers with good emotional intelligence at this time. I think they're doing a particularly good job at managing their teams and managing their team's wellbeing. We're finding that this whole situation has turned a big spotlight on issues in people's personal life or issues in a relationship performance, etc., that potentially where there already. Well, this situation has magnified them and I suppose really created a big focus for our people in that regard. So things like doing that one-to-one check-in with staff, which is not work related to task. So you're literally just saying that I want to do a half hour check-in with each of you to see if this is working well, what are be the improvements, any issues, etc., in relation to that whole area.

Also the importance of social connection with staff. So again, Zoom tea breaks are working very well, so again, you're putting a timeslot into the diary where you're facilitating people to get together. There's been a lot of showing of pets and children and fun stuff like that. And again, that's what we are trying to encourage, which is that social connection with staff because people are really missing the not being at work.

We have a lot of employee assistance programs in place at the moment which people are actively I suppose taking advantage of. And again, if we haven't done a reminder to staff in relation to the employee wellbeing that's in place, again, that will be something that will be very helpful to remind staff of.

Back to Top

Risk Assessments

Now that we have a timeline in terms of what the roadmap looks like in line with that, that you're letting people know when we expect that they will be returning to the office, how we plan to manage that, etc. Because a lot of people are really concerned in relation to how they facilitate the return from remote working to the office and we want to give them as much consolation as we can that we've done a really good risk assessment in relation to how we're going to manage that transition.

And the key where we're going to do that it's by doing a risk assessment of both the customer flow and a risk assessment of the staff flow. So that, you know, we're very clear in relation to what that looks like in terms of return. And again, I suppose just to remind you like the government update with the phases in phase five, which is up to the 20th of August, has a recommendation that for roles that remote working is working well that should continue.

Obviously, there can be a mix of, you know, the office and remote working to facilitate and ensure it continues to work well. But that I suppose it's an important focus I suppose for us in line with that roadmap. And when you map the customer journey and you map the staff journey, you're focusing is doing a risk assessment to see where you can reduce and eliminate risks.

So some companies for example, are looking at extended opening hours of the office, they're looking at changing staff facilities, moving desks, etc. They're looking at putting in a number of different shifts for people in terms of the hours that they will work so that you will have less people in the one location at the same time. And for most organisations that can facilitate it, they're still very much of the view that they still want to maintain what's good and what's working well in relation to remote working. I suppose it's business as normal then for HR outside of that.

So we're still doing investigations, we're still doing induction in terms of onboarding, we're still doing, you know, performance management discussions, etc. So from a HR perspective, it's designing and agreeing what are the key principles now we need to incorporate into the policy that exists at the moment that basically needs to be considered. So things like at confidentiality, things like the person having an appropriate location, things like making sure they're familiar and comfortable with the technology, GDPR, etc.

But they can all be managed proactively but it's important that it does start to become business as normal now because we know that the remote working is here to stay and it's kind of how we manage that now is what's going to dictate our productivity.

And remember for a lot of staff members, they're very much in favour of having the balance in relationship to being able to do maybe so many days from home and so many days remotely, that's what they really want. So again, it's just making sure we can try and do that as proactively as we can to make it work both from an employee and from an organisational perspective.

Back to Top

Personal Issues arising for Remote Workers

And my last area before I hand you back to Rolanda is in relation to, I suppose, the issues that are presenting themselves at the moment in relation to people's personal lives and whether that's people drinking too much at home, whether that's people experiencing kind of behaviour that's they don't feel is appropriate, whether that's mental health issues in relation to worry associated with family or other matters, whether that's financial issues, whether that's, you know, worry in terms of anxiety to do with, you know, the situation that we're in.

I think it's really important that we guide managers in relation to their role is to signpost rather than to do anything further because we've had a lot of managers over the last couple of weeks who have ended up becoming counsellors and, you know, doing daily kind of counselling calls with people or engaging with people outside of hours to support them because of the challenges in their personal life at the moment.

Again, remember, we have all the same resources available to us, like the company doctor, except it might be a remote call, like the employee assistance programme, etc., etc. So, it's important that managers appreciate the fact of the importance of empathy, emotional intelligence and the importance of being kind and but not starting to step into the role of adviser, or personal life coach, etc. And there is a definite theme that's emerging in that regard.

So again, I think that's important that we look at seeing how we can proactively lead the way from an HR perspective in that regard. So I'm going to pass you over to Rolanda. And before we finish then I want to do a list of summary just to take some questions that have come in, if that's okay

Rolanda: Okay. Thank you so much, Caroline. Some really good tips on there. And we'll have a few questions. And just before I move to them and I just wanted to mention the e-learning options that Legal Island has available and that we have increased our e-learning offering. If you like, just due to demand really for us, this is a good time to train staff.

So on your screen there you should see the various learning programmes that we have. And we'll send more information to you about those in the email following the webinar.

Back to Top

Q&A

Rolanda Caroline, you mentioned a lot throughout that session about line managers and line managers doing this and line managers doing that. What we're finding in the feedback, generally, we're getting at Legal Island is that the line managers, obviously their role is critical at the moment and they're likely to be the ones that would face a lot of pressure particularly as you were just saying they are becoming counsellors almost. What should organisations be doing to support these line managers?

Caroline: I think line managers are really feeling I suppose the challenge to be managing everybody else's productivity to be, you know, managing the challenges in relation to everybody else. I think the most important thing we can do with line managers is help them understand what they need to do, in terms of supporting them.

I think we've covered a lot of the key tips, so things like giving feedback, things like psychic management doesn't work, things like helping people to plan their work more than they would have necessarily done before, things like putting in place like what your role is in terms of the signposting people, things like encouraging them to use the employee assistance programme. So ultimately, for me, the line managers need probably maybe a support session from HR to guide them at the moment because a lot of them are treading water and are challenged as a result.

So I think that would be really helpful to give them that guidance. So I think that will be, you know, the best approach. And I think as well encouraging line managers to say, "Look, we appreciate this is challenging times for you too. You need to reach out also if you are finding you're experiencing challenges," and who is the person that's designated the role of doing virtual open-door management check-ins and wellbeing check-ins with line managers I think is really important also.

Rolanda: Okay. Thanks for that. And you mentioned earlier in the session about the importance of having an idea of the kind of hours people are working obviously to ensure adherence to the Working Time Act, etc. And somebody has just sent a question, which is a very good point. What are you finding organisations are doing where people are really, you know, are kind of going from doing a bit of work, to doing some type some child care, to doing some homeschooling, to doing a bit of work, etc., where it becomes quite difficult to say, you know, specifically they worked from eight o'clock to five o'clock or whatever?

What kind of advice you've given to organisations around trying to monitor what people are doing, I guess, to ensure that they're not either doing too much or too little?

Caroline: I think the important is that, you know, if you are getting the person to keep a log of what they're working, at least you know what's going on. And then in your weekly task meeting, in your weekly check-in meeting you can have a conversation to say, "Look, Caroline, that seems like last week, you know, you were know all over the place or, you know, you basically worked too much or last week it must be really challenging to concentrate and that might be part of the challenge as to why the report didn't get completed." I would say you have to sit down then and say, "So what can we change for this week to make that work better?" And that's why I'm finding now that people are starting work earlier to get a few hours where they can do work like emails, you know, work that doesn't require interaction necessarily and that basically they're able to get the couple of hours and then they're able to take maybe an hour or two off in the middle of the day where they're able to manage childcare.

What I don't think it works from a productivity point of view based on the research that's the person is constantly all day jumping in and out of each. There's no problem, like people are going to be on a webinar and a child is going to come over and ask a question or, you know, but for example, in terms of preparing the meals for the children, that should be an allocated timeslot within the person's day that they're able to not worry about trying to have to firefight.

So I think the first step is to see what did they work in terms of hours for a week? And then the second step is to have a good discussion around how can we facilitate this to work better because if it works better for the employee, it's going to work better in turn for us. So I think that's the kind of best approach in that regard.

Rolanda: That makes sense. I think it could be different for everyone really depending on I suppose the age of their children, for example, younger children obviously are going to require more time, etc. Okay, thanks for that. And just moving on then I'll have an absence question here. And I know we've had this in another webinar, for basically someone had said prior to the whole sort of lockdown and having to work from home and the employer is obviously trying to manage that absence, but really I suppose the question is during this time of lockdown, it's obviously hard to really manage absence because somebody could be doing on a given day for example or whatever.

Managing Absence: are you advising employers that this period during lockdown effectively I'll just pause in terms of absence or are you advising to continue monitoring absence during this time?

Caroline: I think that if they're working from home, obviously then they're not required to come into the office. So from that perspective, absence is, you know, they're going to be working remotely, but I think we need to keep the same processes, same working as normal. So if it's the case that the person has been absent, for example, every Monday or Mondays and a very much a typical day the person is absent, I would still continue to manage and monitor that during this time because we know this is not a short-term remote working initiative that we're going to be back to normal, for example, in two weeks' time. We know that this is something that's going takeaway on long into the future. So, you know, we need to put kind of the parameters in place now, that we're nipping issues in the bud, you know, and go from there.

Rolanda: Okay. Thanks for that, Caroline. And one final question then, just before we finish up today.

You mentioned earlier, you know, you made a good point that in reviewing your remote work policy, it's important to maybe say that this is for business continuity reasons and it doesn't mean it's going to happen forever.

However, on a positive note, homeworking and remote working is more likely to become more common given that now everyone now had a wee bit of a taste of it and it will set some rules, but won't set all rules.

What should employers be thinking about now in terms of the longer term picture and because it is likely that they will receive requests from people that they want to do, you know, part remote working and part coming into the office. What would you be advising them to be thinking about now for the longer term once lockdown is sort of relaxed, etc.?

Caroline: So I would say in terms of, you know, first of all, I would do a check-in to see the person's availability in terms of, you know, preference, in terms of availability to come back to the office versus, you know, work remotely. I would also then number two, do that risk assessment around the ergonomics to see have they got the facilities to make it work. First of all, if it just that they don't have desk and by purchasing a desk it'll be fine, they can do it. Maybe it's a bigger issue in relation to broadband, in relation to space, in relation to, if our ergonomically this won't work, that's going to be, you know, a barrier for it to continue.

I would then say once you've identified what is the staff availability, what is their ergonomic position? What is the broadband, etc., then I would identify from a job role specific perspective, what do we need like will Zoom and, you know, online etc., will that suffice? Will that make it work? Because if it does, well then that's perfectly fine, if it doesn't, well then we need to kind of commonplace a plan of gradual return back to the office.

So I think there's a number of different things we need to think about. I think we also need to think about the technology. I think we also need to think about the employee's wellbeing. I think we also need to think about how we're managing and monitoring productivity, both from a management perspective and from an employee perspective in terms of where we have opportunities for improvement.

So I think, you know, overall remote working is one of the real successes coming out of this whole situation but it's now also an opportunity to kind of identify what's working well, what do we need to tweak or improve and who will it work well for going forward into future, what job roles, what people, etc., and how do we plan that return?

And we've spoken, Rolanda, about doing our next webinar which we'll hopefully do in the next two weeks or so very much focused on that new transition back to what's the new normal? What does that consist of? And I think remote working, we won't be covering the next day because we've covered today. But there's a lot of challenges in relation to people, for example, who have underlying health conditions, people who have childcare issues, etc., who are saying, well look, I have to stay working remotely long into the future because from a restraint perspective, I'm not able to. So again, there things we need to consider and, you know, tease out. So there's, you know, it's definitely something that remote working is here to stay, I think, Rolanda.

Rolanda: Okay. Yes, I agree. Okay. Thank you so much, Caroline. And thank you all for listening. And we have a webinar next week, the 14th with Jennifer Cashman where we'll look at some of the legal aspects of the return to work. And then the week after that deal with some of the HR issues in our next webinar with Caroline. We'll get the date for that up onto website over the next week or so. So just keep your eye right there. Thank you all for listening. And thank you once again, Caroline, for your time and we are off tomorrow, so we wish you all a very good weekend. Thanks for now. Bye-bye.

Caroline: Thanks, Rolanda. Take care, everybody.

Back to Top

     

This article is correct at 07/05/2020
Disclaimer:

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.

Caroline McEnery
The HR Suite

The main content of this article was provided by Caroline McEnery. Contact telephone number is +353 66 710 2887 / +353 86 775 2064 or email info@thehrsuite.com

View all articles by Caroline McEnery