The pandemic forced people to adopt remote work arrangements overnight, and now many workers don’t want to return to the old ways of doing things. It looks like the new normal will include remote work, so HR professionals need to figure out what that means going forward. The good news is that remote work does not have to be an engagement and collaboration killer. At the same time, remote work policies do need to take various risks into account.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
The U.S. Census Bureau says that only 5.7% of all workers typically worked from home in 2019. This figure surged during the pandemic. Gallup’s September 2021 update found that 45% of full-time U.S. employees were working from home either part-time or full-time.
These workers might have switched to remote arrangements out of necessity, but they’re happy with the way things are now. In fact, Joblist found that 45% of remote workers say they would quit if their employer forced them back into the office in 2022.
Remote Work May Foster Productivity
Some managers are worried about the impact that remote work will have. They may worry that workers will not be engaged, or that collaboration and innovation will suffer. While these concerns are natural, they may also be unfounded.
According to Quantum Workplace, 81% of hybrid workers and 78% of remote workers have reporteded high engagement during the pandemic, compared to only 72% of on-site employees.
And let’s face it: Even if remote work isn’t perfect, the office isn’t always ideal, either. FlexJobs found that 35% of workers like remote work because it lets them avoid office politics and distractions.
Remote Work Risks
Remote work arrangements can be beneficial and productive, but there are still risks to consider, such as the following:
- Discrimination: If some workers are allowed to work remotely and others aren’t, claims of discrimination may result. The EEOC has already filed a lawsuit against a company accused of unlawfully denying an employee’s reasonable accommodation request for remote work.
- Safety. Employers might assume that an employee’s home setup is none of their business, but what if a worker trips over office supplies or hurts their back sitting on a cheap office chair? Remote workers can file workers’ compensation claims for injuries they experience while working from home.
- Cybersecurity: If remote workers are using unpatched programs and shared networks, cybercriminals could exploit the vulnerabilities to target the company. According to Tenable, 67% of business-impacting cyberattacks target remote employees.
- Compliance. Employers must post certain workplace posters advising workers of their various rights. When employees are working remotely, electronic posters may be required, and this is something that employers might not think of. Issues can also arise when employees take advantage to move out of state. Because many workplace requirements vary from state to state, this can create new compliance issues.
Remote Work HR Polices
Remote work is here to stay, and the right remote work HR policies can help employers reap the benefits of this trend while avoiding the downside.
The remote work policies that emerged in the early days of the pandemic may have been haphazard. Going forward, it’s important to have a clear written policy that lays out the details of the program. Here are a few of the things that should be covered:
- Who is eligible for remote work? What are the factors that determine whether an employee can work remotely, and what is the approval process? Having a clear policy may help you avoid claims of discrimination.
- How should the workspace be set up? Having a safe and ergometric home office can help workers avoid injuries and workers’ compensation claims.
- What cybersecurity precautions must be taken? Establish clear rules on hotspots, passwords, multifactor authentication, backups, patches, and other important security measures.
- Who is financially responsible for equipment, supplies, subscriptions and space? Will workers be reimbursed for expenses, and how does this process work. Make sure your policies are in line with federal and state laws.
- When are workers on the clock and what timekeeping systems will be used? Separating work time from personal time can be more challenging, but this is important for various compliance and wage and hour issues.
Priming Your Remote Work Arrangement for Success
A successful remote work policy requires the right attitude and approach.
- Train managers how to manage workers remotely. This is new territory for many managers, and they may need guidance.
- Address worker concerns over things like mentorship, performance reviews, and career advancement. They may worry that remote work could hurt their long-term career prospects.
- Establish clear performance expectations. How will workers be evaluated? Will workers be monitored for activity, or will the focus be on results?
- Create strong communication strategies. Engagement and collaboration are possible in remote work arrangements, but it’s important to make sure workers aren’t becoming isolated.
- Invest in the right tools. Since remote work is here to stay, it’s time to invest in it.
The right remote work policies can help make your remote work arrangements successful. Do you have questions about keeping employees engaged? Contact our employee benefits team.