Many businesses had to scramble to institute new regulations and procedures when the Covid-19 crisis necessitated a shift to remote working. Since this new way of working worked so well, some companies are implementing it in the long-term. But moving from close-knit communal offices to remote home offices will require a few more adjustments and considerations to ensure long-term success. To help you with this, we look at four important categories of requirements you will need to consider.
Structure requirements for remote working
Firstly, find out whether remote working will be viable for your company and employees. Talk to employees to see who would be willing to work remotely in the long term and if they would need additional resources.
Next, prepare remote working contracts and procedure manuals. Luckily, some contracts will only require amendments. Discuss these amendments with employees and make sure they are happy with the new arrangements. Do not force employees to accept any changes they feel are unreasonable. This may mean that you need to negotiate and see what will work best for both parties.
A letter of amendment can include:
- where the employee will be based,
- that the company will supply the necessary equipment and that it will remain their property,
- any changes to employment terms and conditions like pay, working hours, holiday entitlement and pension contributions.
Once your remote working force has been determined, see if employees need additional training or equipment. If so, set up a training plan and decide which equipment you will be able to supply.
Brief employees on communication channels. Who will they be reporting to and how? Which channels will be used for meetings and how often will meetings be held? How can they get in touch with other employees to get the information they need? Will you expect employees to check their messages and emails after official working hours? Can employees travel when they work remotely if they still meet deadlines? How do they request time off?
Managers need to regularly communicate with their employees to let them know support and help is available. As part of these efforts, keep track of work progress and remind employees of deadlines with regular video calls, emails, and other messaging platforms. Institute daily one-on-one or conference video calls. By doing this, both managers and co-workers can better gauge a colleague’s state of mind and it will create a feeling of belonging and interaction.
Finally, make sure that your IT department secures your preferred communication channels. This will prevent data leaks and the loss of important documents.
Culture requirements to assist remote employees
Creating a sense of belonging and pride in a company breeds loyalty and a willingness to work hard. Therefore, it is important to keep up with company traditions and culture, even among remote working groups. You can even add a few new ones that can help remote workers feel closer. Departments can meet and socialise during a weekly video call. Alternatively, host a virtual activity like a quiz or a party and have pizza, or a gift delivered to all the employees at a certain time. Encourage virtual activities like employees dressing up, down or in company uniform on Fridays or wearing funny socks or hats on certain days. In addition, encourage employees to take a picture and share it with colleagues. If possible, schedule physical team-building meetups and go for coffee or enjoy a fun activity together.
Schedule some time before a team call to chat about how everyone is doing, so that employees can catch up. In doing so, employees will build relationships and be more likely to collaborate successfully and go the extra mile to help each other on projects.
Compliance requirements to ensure remote working is done lawfully
Ensure that you comply with all the relevant remote working legislation to avoid unnecessary legal problems. As previously stated, don’t force employees to accept unreasonable new conditions or pressure them into working from home. If due processes are not followed, employees may decide to file a claim of constructive dismissal.
Follow the correct procedure when you adjust working hours and rates. In other words, pay employees fairly (according to the Equality Act 2020) and above the minimum wage.
Stipulate terms in the contract to prevent employees from using company resources to do private work for others. This will mean that disciplinary action can be instituted if you find that employees are repeatedly not meeting deadlines or completing their work with due diligence and care. Remember that you need to have sufficient proof to prompt a reprimand, or for more serious offences, dismissal.
You also need to take the health and safety of remote workers into consideration. Take note, that all the normal health and safety legislation still apply, and you will still have duty of care.
Technology requirements for successful remote working
This aspect is one of the most important to consider as it will directly impact your employees’ ability to do their work and their productivity.
Essentials for home offices include:
- Dedicated working space with minimum distractions
- Office chair
- Desktop computer or laptop
- Fast and reliable internet connection (and associated equipment)
- Office supplies like pens, notebooks, sticky notes, staples, files, and printer paper.
- Earphones, a headset, or speakers
- Computer microphone and webcam
If you are supplying some of these items to employees, ensure that a fair usage policy is included in their contract.
Cloud storage solutions will be essential. Importantly, if employees cannot access the usual company systems, you will need to train them on using cloud-based storage systems. Following this, encourage employees to save their work on the company system instead of their own to avoid data theft or loss.
Remote working employees can connect to the company’s existing computer network online with a virtual private network (VPN), for instance.
Employees need to be aware of security and confidentiality protocols. To ensure this, all computers and systems should be password-locked and protected by firewalls and anti-virus software.
Supply employees with all the software they need to do their job. This can range from standard software like, for example, Microsoft Office to specialist software for data processing or customer service. Additionally, employees need to have video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom installed. Therefore, it is important that your IT department installs programs correctly, and grants access and issues passwords to the right people.