The UK locks down
On 16th March 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced those memorable words: “Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. We need people to start working from home where they possibly can.”
A week later the country went into lockdown and thousands of workers had left their offices along with their everyday social interaction, access to office technology, face to face brainstorming sessions and the collective energy that brings innovation.
Working from home for some brought the challenges of having to try and get on with a normal working day alongside other people in the home. Noisy children, a partner trying to work in another area, older teenagers shouting at gaming machines - and those that were furloughed watching TV and generally having a good time – while those left working were trying to concentrate.
Six months later many are still working from home, with some businesses saying this will last until early next year, the summer of 2021 or even using words like ‘indefinite’ or ‘permanent’. Covid 19 has turned the world on its head.
A turn-around on policy
This has forced the issue for many companies of writing new policies and processes to be sure that agreements are in place that outline best practices to follow, and the legal rights of home working employees. This may be time-consuming, but in the long run, many of the old policies and rules and standards that applied to the office, are now defunct.
Policies must clearly outline the legal protections that remote workers have and address the challenge of making sure your company is legally compliant. Guidelines to employees will identify the hours they should be working and explain overtime policies. This will make it clear to employees that they can’t work longer hours without permission from their manager. Employees must still take regular breaks and smokers will need to be included in the new policy.
The same rules apply as if they were working in the business office. Their contracts still apply, their holiday and sickness benefits are the same but training and meetings, either with the team, or one to one, will be taking a different form. This could be clearly defined in the new remote work policy.
The equipment and technology removed from the office by each employee should be recorded in each individual person’s remote work policy. Employees are responsible for the care of the equipment and must tell a manager if there is an issue with any hardware.
Keep it confidential
Working from home throws up all sorts of confidentiality issues, and rules around storing information and data protection should be clearly laid out in the policy. If confidential information is in a paper form it will be required to be kept in a locked filing cabinet.
Cloud security may need to be stepped up and employees must keep passwords safe and switch off machines at the end of the day or if they are away from the office. All devices that contain company information should be encrypted by default until unlocked. There must be clear guidelines written into the policy to keep applications, data and the infrastructures around the cloud security protected.
Your employees are no longer sitting in the room with you and may need to contact someone if they have problems or their circumstances change. It would probably be their same line manager but there may be a need for a welfare contact, or a helpline for an employee to contact should they have a mental health issue.
Disciplinary procedures will still be applicable, but again in a slightly different form. If an employee needs a union member or other representative it may be more different to get everyone together on an online video call.
Communication is key for any remote team. Six months in everyone has become efficient in systems such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Dropbox, Microsoft Office 365 – the list goes on. As an employer, communicating your expectations is important when your worker is not there in front of you in person. Setting tasks and deadlines using systems that your workforce understands and is efficient with, is vital.
If necessary, make sure your employees have guides to the systems they will be using at home.
Our team of experts is on hand to ensure your data stays protected and your business remains compliant. Contact us today on 01629 369250 for more information.