Working from home - Navigating new challenges

 

During these unprecedented times, who would have thought that many of us would be working in our homes during all of our working hours? Whether this has been part-time or full-time, most employees and employers are enjoying many benefits such as zero commuting time, less exposure to the Coronavirus, and less overhead for the employer. Alternately, there are other challenges such as feeling isolated, being disconnected, and experiencing blurred lines between work and home life.

Recent surveys have indicated that new employees in an organization who are working from home feel far more disconnected than their tenured co-workers.

  • 31% of new employees working remotely report negative impacts to their productivity

  • 13% of tenured remote workers report negative impacts to their productivity

  • 45% of new workers claim that their sense of belonging suffers by working remotely

  • 25% of tenured workers claim that their sense of belonging suffers by working remotely

Ultimately, employees’ perceptions differ regarding sense of belonging and productivity based on how long an employee has been a member of the organization.

Tips for Employers

It has never been more important to keep the lines of communication open! It is necessary to check in with your employees daily to provide support and keep them connected. Communication must be emphasized relating to current developments, changing processes, short-term and long-term planning, and real time recognition of employee achievements. With so many tools at our disposal such as Zoom, Teams, Facetime, Google; it is much easier than ever to connect. This is a good opportunity to provide clear direction on goals and articulate specific project requirements.

Having regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings are essential to provide feedback and recognition, especially for new employees. During team meetings, create an environment that motivates employees by sharing successes and showing them that their work is meaningful. When you let your employees succeed on their own, you are indicating that you have trust in their ability to take ownership of their work. Flexibility is equally important as people are now faced with challenges relating to family matters such as children with school and avoiding health risks for elderly family members.

In order to break up the monotony, you can arrange to do some things outside of the workplace as you would when you are at the office. You can invite your employees to go for a virtual walk or a virtual coffee separately at your local coffee shop.

Employers have new recruitment advantages since remote work allows for a substantial expansion of the candidate pool to people who are located in other regions. People can relocate or live miles away from their workplace and still have the ability to remain with the same employer. It is easier for people to also work part-time because there is no commute required for remote work.

For health and safety compliance, it is important to have ergonomic and hazard assessments completed for remote workers. Take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of your employees. Conduct regular hazard assessments to determine if any hazards exist. This can be accomplished by taking photographs of work areas with representatives of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) conducting the inspection. The employees can take any personal items out of their work area, but it is important that they understand that the employer is obligated to ensure that their workplace is safe. Some examples include verifying if there are any fire hazards based on how many items are plugged into one outlet or if the chair they are using is not ergonomically sound as this could lead to injuries later on. Once employees understand what the risks are, they will appreciate any interventions that will lead to a healthier work environment.

Best Practices for employees

Ensure you have a designated work area to minimize distractions and adhere to your regular work hours. Even though you are at home, treat your job as if you are working at your office; get dressed, create a routine, and remove any social apps that are distracting. It is important to plan your day in your calendar noting all events such as breaks, lunch, daily tasks, and scheduled meetings. Share your calendars so everyone knows what is going on. Respect and adhere to boundaries such as a do not disturb sign on your messaging system which is equivalent to a closed door.

Policies for Working Remotely

Ensure that employees are aware that their jobs have not changed and that their performance expectations are still required while working from home. Ensure that employees are available and accessible during work hours by email or phone and that confidentiality is established. If you are providing employees with equipment to work from home, this should be clarified and documented in a written agreement. As the employer, you must indicate that working-from-home is a temporary measure and that it is at your discretion to determine whether an employee must return to the workplace. Having an agreement with a clause indicating that this temporary measure can be revoked or changed at any time is essential. It is also necessary to have a policy and a tracking system in place to authorize employees working additional hours. This will ensure that your employees are not working beyond their regular workday unless required and that they are maintaining a healthy work-life balance.  

Going Forward

Employees will experience working from home differently and newer employees will have a different perspective from tenured employees. These differences should be noted in how you are dealing with all of your employees. Implement employee and employer best practices and take recommendations from employees regarding what they think employers should do. Perform regular health and safety inspections to help maintain a safe workplace for your employees within their homes. Ensure that you are updating your policies and practices relating to any changes that occur regarding their place of work. This should always be accompanied by signed agreements between the employee and employer.

As experienced human resources consultants, we are available to assist with any policies, processes, and health and safety requirements for your employees working from home or onsite.

Resources:

COVID-19: A Mental Health Pandemic. Three-Fifths (59%) of Canadians Report That Their Mental Health Has Been Negatively Affected by the Coronavirus | Ipsos