Making Remote Working ... Work: Is Your Business Ready?

The COVID-19 pandemic and its resurgence has changed how we work. In early spring, many businesses quickly transitioned to allow employees to work remotely, with the goal of returning to the workplace. However, with case counts climbing in the US and questions being raised about whether schools will return in the fall, what once seemed like a temporary solution may become more permanent.

It is nothing new that companies are changing their benefits packages to appeal to top talent, but now many may be considering making changes to their work from home policies. Employees' appreciate family-friendly flexible policies, as well as policies that recognize the employee’s own anxiety about the unknown.

As a business owner, what should you be doing to make sure you are protected and your employees are successful if they remain in a remote work environment?

Implement or update your Remote Work policy.

If you don’t have a remote work policy, implement one. If you have one, dust it off and see if it still applies.

One of the most important initial factors is to clarify to all of your employees that remote work or Telecommuting is only an option when both the employee and job position is suited for such an arrangement. Remember, Telecommuting is not an entitlement. The policy should clearly state that when an employee is authorized to work remotely, it is the employee’s responsibility to ensure that their workspace is suitable for safe and effective performance of their job duties.

Next, set out the minimum requirements for working from home. Some of those requirements could be:

• The employee must have a reliable, secure internet connection
• The environment has moderate to low background noise
• The environment should meet reasonable safety requirements.

The policy should clarify who is responsible for office equipment. Who is going to supply the hardware such as a phone, computer or printer, and who is responsible for the more fungible items such as paper and pens?

Consider whether there is a dress code for remote employees while on video calls or during work hours. And finally, agree in advance what the at home work hours will be and stress that the employee should generally be available during that time frame.

If continued remote work is likely in your company’s future, it is important to take some time now to determine what your policy will be and then commit it to paper. Everyone will be in a better position if the rules are established sooner than later.

If you do not have a remote work policy seek advice and counsel from your local attorney to help get you started.

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