At the beginning of the pandemic, many organizations set up their employees to work from home as a response to stay-at-home orders or as a health precaution. Now many are realizing that remote work is, well, working. Being in a crisis mode created its own energy and pushed things forward. By now, most organizations have smoothed out any kinks in their new way of operating and have found some type of a system that’s been working for everyone on the team. It doesn’t seem to be any time soon that we will emerge back into the office with business as usual, so the question remains: how does your organization manage the longevity of working from home? A good first step would be to update your organizations employee handbook to include, or revise, telework policies to make sure your team continues to work well together, even while apart.
It’s never a bad idea to make amendments to your policies and procedures. These changes won’t just help your organization now, they will also serve as a safety net in the future. The coronavirus pandemic has already pushed organizations big and small to think and act quickly. Many employers were not ready with an emergency plan to deal with a pandemic, which has left people in leadership positions learning as they go. The purpose of implementing, or revising, a work from home policy should be to optimize for the benefits while limiting the risk. Basically, setting up your employees to be as successful outside the office as they are in it. Reviewing your policies and procedures now also gives employers the opportunity to fine tune all the systems put in place as a response to the pandemic.
The leadership team at Hawley & Associates recently updated our telework policy to better fit our more permanent situation for the time being. Below are some important factors our team took into consideration when adding amendments:
Establish Regular Working Hours
Your work from home policy should clearly state when employees are expected to work, and when they should call it a day. If flexibility is important to your team, this might look like setting a total number of hours (i.e. employees are expected to work a total of 8 hours per day). More likely, it will mean setting a range of working hours (i.e. employees are expected to be available and working from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.). An easy approach would be to mirror your standard office workday, which might vary by team.
For salaried employees, this isn’t just about ensuring your team stays on task. The bigger benefit is to give your employees the confidence to establish their own boundaries so they don’t feel pressured to be “always on”, which will prevent burnout in the long run.
For hourly employees, remember that federal non-exempt rules still apply. Confirm that your employees understand they must continue to track their time and request manager approval to work overtime.
Provide a Timekeeping System for Hourly Employees
Non-exempt employees will still need to accurately track all hours worked and submit those to management. Make sure your hourly employees understand the process for tracking these hours from home. Some ideas might be to have an Excel spreadsheet that can be easily stored and copied for each new week. If your organization is more tech savvy, you might try implementing a timesheet software or app like Harvest.
A big challenge you might face while working remotely is that you can’t just pop by someone’s desk to get their input on a time-sensitive project. It might feel like you’re constantly hunting people down via email, text message or chat boxes. Diminish this by setting standards around when and how team members will be available. This could also mean auditing communication channels that already exist and designating the primary purpose for each. For instance, if your employees use both Teams and G-chat, you should require employees to stick with one or the other to reduce inefficiency.
Some other work from home resources and tools to contemplate:
DocuSign for e-signatures and record keeping of all policies and forms.
Organizational intranet to privately share and store frequently ask questions, policies and procedures, and HR resources.
Provide IT Support and Maintain Security Standards
Working from home requires relying on technology more than ever and even a minor hiccup can cause serious disruptions to your workday. Providing IT support is extremely important for a dispersed workforce but logistically more complicated. Talk to your IT team and outline a procedure that employees must take in order to promptly solve technology issues while working remotely. If you do not have an IT team, look within your current staff, and formally identify who is the most technologically advanced. Discuss feasible options on the best ways to streamline technology issues within the organization. Keep in mind, that staff member’s workload will need to be adjusted accordingly so they have extra time to help address technology issues without feeling overwhelmed or taken advantage of. Your organization could try implementing a helpline or ticketing system specially for technology issues to deal with them more efficiently.
Technology flare-ups are not the only thing at risk when your team is working remote. Employees are likely connected to their home Wi-Fi or using a shared computer to complete their work. This opens a up a multitude of doors for cyber criminals to plan an attack. If your organization doesn’t already have one, you may want to consider investing in an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect all the users on your system. Furthermore, ensure employees keep work data on work computers, not personal ones, if possible. This would also be a good time to review your organizations cyber liability policy to understand what kind of coverage you do have in the event of a cyber breach. If you need assistance in obtaining coverage or reviewing your policy, please contact us.
Stay Connected to Your Workplace Culture
There are many reasons your employees choose to work diligently for your organization. Amongst those reasons is the culture that has been created and sustained in the workplace. Maintaining the connection to your employees is more critical than ever as they work remotely. Using software like Assemblyor Bonusly keeps the energy alive and gives employees an opportunity to be appreciated for a job well done.
Constant communication is key. Emails, chats, and calls should continue along with your weekly or twice-monthly ‘all-hands’ meeting. This might be difficult to coordinate but the leadership team should make every effort to do so, even if the format changes. A weekly email from management or a shared presentation can also be just as effective. Adjusting to the new ways of work while also continuing to provide the same type of uplifting culture as much as possible will help maintain a sense of normalcy and cohesion among your employees.
Whether you realize it or not, implementing a work from home policy for your organization will require a change of management tactics. The goal might be business as usual, but to achieve that means to adopt new behaviors along the way. You most likely won’t get it right the first time, so try to create avenues for feedback to and from leadership. Most importantly, implement changes where appropriate. Making these changes to policies and procedures now could protect your organization down the line from any liability that could arise. It is imperative that everything is done to ensure your organization is protected and your employees remain productive, even when they are not physically in the office.
The team at Hawley & Associates cares deeply about your mission and provides a consultative approach to your insurance and risk management needs. If you have any questions on how to further protect your organization, please contact us, or request a quote.