Here are some top tips for HR professionals to keep in mind when managing a remote workforce:
1. Employment contracts
Review your employment contracts and homeworking policy. As well as changing the obvious clauses such as place of work, consider the travel provisions and prescribe what will and will not be reimbursed in terms of attending meetings or visiting the office. Review your provisions on confidentiality and return of confidential information and company equipment upon termination. Update your monitoring-at-work policies and also your data security policies.
2. Remote team culture
Breed a culture where homeworkers feel integrated and as much a part of the team as office-based employees. Ensure that they are invited to all work meetings, and social events (even if they fall on a day when the employee is normally working from home).
3. Workforce dialogue
Give your workforce a voice and listen to it. Allow them the flexibility to say if they want to come back to the office if for whatever reason homeworking is no longer working for them. Listening to your employees and giving them an option to work from home or the office is likely to mean that they will do what is right for them and for the business.
4. Technology provision
Insist your home workers use secure company laptops where anti virus software is regularly updated and the laptop can easily be returned on termination of employment. Office equipment such as computers, tablets and printers should be treated in the same way as mobile phones or other technology that leaves the controlled environment of the office building.
5. Working environment
The employer’s duty to ensure a safe working environment extends to those who are working from their homes. Consider ways you can provide the same safe working environment as for office-based employees. For example, provide for rest breaks and offer a workstation assessment.
While an occupational health visit might prevent poor practices such as sitting cross-legged on a sofa and balancing a laptop on a cushion on one’s lap, it won’t capture deeper issues such as addictions, stress or depression which may be more visible or harder to hide with office-based employees. This highlights the importance of open communication, suitable monitoring methods, and developing a healthy and robust remote team culture.
Also, consider making the office workplace more comfortable; many companies have seen huge benefits of having ‘chill-out zones’ with sofas, sleep pods and ‘break-out’ areas at the workplace.
6. Disciplinary procedures
Set clear definable tasks that can be easily monitored to avoid employees feeling like their employer is “big brother spying”, which will make your workforce feel uneasy and distrusted; some employers use accountability systems such as key stroke recognition, webcams and screenshot monitoring, which could pose a legal threat to an employee’s right to privacy.
Use the phone more and check in with your homeworkers intermittently and at unscheduled times, both to see their availability and task progress but also to ensure they feel supported and able to flag up issues quickly. Take steps to deal with those you identify as abusing home working arrangements in accordance with your existing disciplinary or capability procedures.