When the pandemic came crashing down on the US workforce last year there was a mad scramble by companies to figure out how to continue operating with a work force scattered to the four winds. On top of the realization that essential technologies like webcams and laptops were suddenly scarce, America’s newest telecommuters had to contend with historically crappy residential internet service, ancient Wifi routers and noisy, poorly furnished home office space shared with new office mates that were, let’s say, less than familiar with professional office etiquette. Even now, as the US eyes returning to some semblance of business normalcy, many companies are considering and even committing to keeping some or all of its employees working from home.
Does your company policy cover working from home?
One of the biggest gaps that companies should be reviewing is if their remote workers are using personally-owned equipment to telecommute. Thanks to tight budgets and stock shortages, many newly-remote workers were pressing family-owned equipment into service with the mindset of it not being a permanent solution. But now that many companies are considering making telecommuting a permanent part of their company, they need to account for the use of technology that isn’t owned or managed by the company itself. If employees are allowed to use their own personal machines to access work, are those machines properly secured, and if they can’t be made secure, what is the company’s responsibilities and what are the employee’s? Should they provide equipment, or some form of stipend, and if the latter, what’s the policy governing personal use of that equipment?
Working remotely also requires healthy, fast internet secured by a properly-maintained firewall. Should the company pay for that employee’s internet? What if that worker’s internet quality makes working from home difficult? What if that internet is shared by other household members who don’t work for said company? What if that firewall inhibits said household from properly enjoying other non-work activities? Most residential ISP’s make it difficult to set up separate internet circuits to the same address, and in many cases, the home’s wiring cannot accommodate it even if the ISP is willing to do so.
Is your company’s management prepared to evaluate the performance of a workforce that they cannot physically supervise? Does your company require the remote employees to keep rigid office hours like they did while in the office, or does your policy allow for more flexible schedules, or is it a mixture of both? What facets of their duties govern how that remote worker manages their time, and how much is that influenced by the company’s culture and management style?
At minimum, company management should review their existing employee policy to make sure that it is revised to cover a new type of working environment and new expectations for their remote workers. Many of the decisions will need to be reviewed with HR and legal counsel to make sure they fall within your localities labor laws, and of course, whoever manages your company’s technology.
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