Like it or not, employees working remotely - from home - is now a “thing”. The COVID-19 pandemic had many impacts on the business world but perhaps the most enduring will be employees’ desire to work from home and employers’ need to accommodate them.
On that topic, I’ve seen various reports on whether employees working remotely are as productive as those attending at the office every day. I have little doubt that many day-to-day activities (such as, you know, old-fashioned tasks like speaking to a co-worker) are made substantially more cumbersome by their remote location. Especially when the dryer cycle has just ended and clothes need to be folded.
Assuming that some or all of your employees are going to be working remotely going forward, there are some things you need to be addressing.
Do You Have A “Working From Home Policy”?
WorkSafeBC advises that employers who have remote employees should have a policy addressing the whole working from home scenario. This is good advice, and I wholeheartedly agree.
But, aside from cautioning your employees about spending working time doing laundry, getting groceries, or walking the dog, what else should the policy address? Here are some good suggestions.
What is the point of the policy… what is it intended to achieve?
Do you wish to emphasize that working from home is a privilege, not an entitlement?
To what categories of employees does the working from home opportunity apply?
Must work-from-home schedules and arrangements be approved (in writing?), by the employee’s immediate supervisor?
Will the approval to work from home be subject to some sort of time limit – such as a year – after which it will be reviewed and assessed?
Are employees working from home expected to maintain their normal hours of work and job duties, and to complete their assigned duties at the same pace and frequency as if they were working at the office premises?
Are employees who are going to be absent from their home workspace for a portion of the day required to notify, and obtain the permission of, their immediate supervisor?
Are employees working from home allowed to work beyond their regularly scheduled hours, or work hours attracting so-called “overtime pay” without the prior permission of their immediate supervisor?
Are employees required to monitor, record, and report their at-home hours of work to management as usual?
Might employees working from home be required to attend at your office premises, occasionally, for various reasons?
Do you expect employees to ensure the protection of confidential/personal information security at their home workspace?
Do you require your employees to ensure that the equipment they are using for work purposes is only used for that purpose (ie. it’s not also being used to stream Netflix, save recipes, play video games, etc.)?
Do you want to retain the right to periodically request access to your at-home employees’ workspace in order to ensure compliance with your policies and procedures?
Do you wish to reserve the right to revoke or alter work-from-home arrangements, at any time, for operational (or other) reasons?
Do you wish to take an active approach to the ergonomics of at-home workspaces to ensure staff are reducing their risk of injury?
Have You Modified Your Company’s Health and Safety Policy?
Without a doubt – certainly in the view of WorkSafeBC – having a health and safety policy which provides for a work-from-home arrangement is critical. In essence, the policy should impose the obligation on the employees to maintain their home workspace in a safe manner, free from safety hazards. A non-exhaustive list of potentially relevant requirements is as follows.
Ultimately, though employers will (perhaps justifiably) offload many of these matters onto employees working from home, they are the employer’s responsibility. In the event of any sort of accident or injury, WorkSafeBC will hold the employer responsible for any workplace health and safety shortcomings, so the employer should take an active interest in the setup of a work-from-home space.
It’s a new world out there… requiring more policies and more oversight and more vigilance on the part of employers. For many employers, going back to the good old days may simply not be an option.
This item is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. Informed legal advice should always be obtained about your specific circumstances.