With businesses now transitioning teams to work from home, many practical considerations come into play, such as suitable internet, IT access and hardware, and determining what work can be done from home. This is new territory for many businesses and managers are having to move quickly to get employees set up. There are some risks and other factors that may be overlooked at this time however, and these are important to also take into account.

Ensure people are set up safely

This is hugely important as we know many people have a perception of working from home being laying in bed or on the couch, with a laptop, in their pyjamas! This poor posture can lead to strain and injuries which may potentially trigger workers’ compensation claims. Ensure your employees have a designated work space, an ergonomic set up, and have personally verified that their home-based work site is safe from hazards. Consider putting in place a checklist and agreement to limit your liability and exposure as an employer.

Productivity and hours

Working from home will be new for most workers. There may be some productivity gained for those individuals who relish the lack of distraction, where others may struggle with maintaining focus if they are energised by interactions with others. Take this into account and consider what is realistic for people to achieve at this time. Look for ways to adapt your management of teams and communication style (see our blog last week for tips) to accommodate the different needs associated with working remotely. Also encourage your team to treat working from home like a normal work day, getting dressed for work and attending compulsory team meetings via video, taking regular breaks and staying connected to their manager and other team members.

Defining roles

With the transition to working from home, some roles may be pared back, and, as business slows down, there may be less and less work to do. Acknowledging this and redefining roles in light of current circumstances will help you manage expectations and your employees understand what is required of them. In some cases, you may need to discuss temporarily reducing hours with employees. Ensure any significant changes to roles are made in consultation with employees and clearly documented, with employees signing off their agreement.

Cultural awareness

Trust is an important factor in fostering a healthy workplace culture and employees will value the flexibility afforded by working from home. Its important expectations are clear and employees understand what their daily and weekly objectives are so they can work to meet these. Embrace opportunities to collaborate as this enables trust to develop in this new working arrangement. Without face to face interaction, and with the uncertainty and fear that many people are feeling right now, it can be easy to jump to conclusions and question how much you trust your employees are doing what they should be doing. Be aware of your own state of mind and how that may be impacting your perception, remember to address any issues as they come up and communicate, communicate, communicate!

Keep a record of what is provided to employees

It’s easy in the rush to get everyone set up to forget the basics, but it’s important to keep an asset register and a record of what hardware has been provided to employees. Have employees sign off that they have received the items and agree to return them in the same condition.

Some workplaces will have an IT, social media and/or mobile device policy and it’s a good idea to remind employees that their obligations with respect to these remains the same when working from home.

Monitoring devices

Some employers are choosing productivity and other apps to enable monitoring of aspects of their employees’ work. Be sure to inform employees that these apps are required to be installed on their devices and ensure you have their understanding and agreement. The Surveillance Devices Act 1998 (WA) regulates the use of surveillance devices in Western Australia, stipulating restrictions around the communication and publication of information obtained through the use of surveillance devices. Consent is key to complying with these regulations, and you can read more about this here.

There are many changes that we are having to face during this Covid-19 pandemic, and there will be major shifts in how businesses operate going forward. Having employees set up to work from home may be a necessity now, but also provides opportunities for teams to develop their remote collaboration and communication skills and employers and employees alike could benefit from a more flexible and adaptable workforce.

While there are some risks and pitfalls of having teams working remotely, ultimately these can be effectively managed in practical ways. We have put together a working remotely package to support business owners to navigate moving teams to working from home.

Get in touch with us for more information or to find out how we can support you.