While remote working arrangements have been on the rise for years, bolstered largely by improving communications technologies and increasing demands from employees, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many workplaces to think more generously about what work can be done by their employees from their homes.
For the sake of public health and safety during this pandemic, not to mention the desperate need to keep operations running and profits flowing, just about every employee who is able to work from home is now doing so as much as possible. However, as many employers and employees have recently discovered, rapidly switching a substantial portion of the workforce to do their jobs remotely is often a lot more complicated than it may have previously seen.
That’s why in this post we will discuss some of the main challenges and considerations facing employers as they transition and maintain an efficient remote workforce.
First and foremost, if you have employees working remotely – because of coronavirus or otherwise – you will strongly benefit from having comprehensive policies to guide and structure this arrangement. Having standard policies in place will ensure a formal, consistent framework that will encourage a fair, productive and beneficial arrangement for all parties.
Below are just some of the topics your remote working policies should address
A good work-from-home policy should, at a minimum, set out expectations regarding employees’ work and productivity. Employers should clarify or reaffirm reporting structures and make clear how employees will be held accountable for their work and meeting deadlines. Your policies should, for example, detail things like how and when check-ins will be performed.
Leading a team remotely can be difficult. It’s helpful to establish regular check-ins (both individual and as a team) to stay connected and focused on your mission.
With so much uncertainty and many unexpected demands (like homeschooling) brought on by the pandemic, employers might choose to focus on their employees’ output, rather than the specific hours they use to deliver them. It may be wise during these times to allow your employees some flexibility with the time they do their work so as to accommodate the various disruptions many are currently facing.
Health and Safety
The Occupational Health and Safety Act “does not apply to work performed by the owner or occupant or a servant of the owner or occupant to, in or about a private residence or the lands and appurtenances used in connection therewith.”
In other words, the OHSA doesn’t apply to employees working from home. However, while health and safety might not need to be an employer’s top concern for their employees who are working from home, they should nonetheless detail any requirements for the physical work space of employees to be compliant with relevant health and safety legislation.
Having employees work from home will, for many employers, require some degree of changes to the way that confidential information is stored and handled, even if said data is all digital. Removing sensitive materials from the office may be a necessity for some businesses to ensure employee safety and still keep their business afloat. However, handling private information outside of established procedures creates risks that employers will need to mitigate by reviewing and updating privacy policies and training employees on how to handle confidential information when working from home.
As discussed above, employers will want to keep close tabs on their employees’ productivity when they are working from home. There are now many software products that allow employers to do just this. These products can allow employers to track employee screen time, mouse activity, random screenshots among other data. Canadian employers are legally free to use such software provided that they inform their employees that they will be monitored and in what ways.
For more information about work-from-home arrangements, click here.
As jobs change to be done increasingly electronically, so will expectations about working remotely. We recommend you design your telecommuting policy in consultation with an experienced employment lawyer. Call KCY at LAW on 905-639-0999 or contact us online to book your consultation.