As working from home becomes the new normal, are you prepared?

Wednesday April 1, 2020

Working from home is fast becoming the new normal. It may be that way for a while with estimates saying it will be 12-18 months before we see a vaccination for the coronavirus. Here are some important considerations you need to think about when asking employees to work from home.

Keeping in touch

With people being encouraged to stay home and only go out for essentials, we run the risk of feeling isolated. Humans are social creatures; we need to engage with other people, so it’s important to find ways to:

  • Keep in touch with work colleagues
  • Have access to channels that enable more social work chats
  • Encourage employees to talk to friends and family outside of work sessions

Balancing motivation and productivity

While work chats can help to dispel feelings of isolation, they can get in the way of people being productive. The novelty of working from home can also wear off, leaving employees feeling unmotivated.

Start the workday with a daily call to help you and your staff maintain work routines and timetables. These calls can also be a forum for employees to share any difficulties they’re encountering with working from home.

Holding video conferences can encourage staff to get dressed for work as they usually would. Task lists, prioritisation of tasks, setting deadlines and reviewing outcomes can help to ensure employees stay on track with their work.

Maintaining health and safety

Ultimately, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees’ work environment – regardless of whether they work in an office or from home. This includes ensuring they have an ergonomic workstation and looking after their mental and emotional well-being.

Self-check lists could help assess workplace ergonomics, while video tours could verify home safety. If an employee needs additional furniture or equipment, consider loaning them the necessary items (with the proviso they are returned when staff revert to working in the office again or if they leave your employ).

Encourage employees to take regular breaks and to have a sign-off ritual to help them switch off at the end of the day. They should also lodge sick-days as per organisational policy, even if they are working from home.

Talk to your teams about how they are managing. Some employees may find they are:

  • Getting cabin fever
  • Feeling guilty about whether they are working enough hours or are maintaining acceptable productivity
  • Becoming so relaxed at home that they see work calls as an intrusion or become less professional in their presentation or behaviour

Let employees know you are there to support them and implement measures to help them navigate any challenges they may encounter.

Data protection and security

Keeping your data secure is always important – even when employees are working from home. Ensure they have loaded up-to-date security measures and anti-virus software if they are using their own computer or laptop.

Do you have a Work From Home (WFH) Policy?

A Work From Home Policy helps to protect your business by clearly outlining the business rules and expectations for staff when working from home.

As pressure is building for Australian businesses to ask staff to work remotely, your need for this type of protection is growing. That’s why you need to ensure you have a WFH policy as a matter of urgency.

If you already have a WFH Policy in place, when was it last reviewed or communicated to staff? If something goes wrong, these are questions Fair Work will be asking!

If you have any questions about your legal obligations regarding employees working from home, give us a call. We can also help you write, review and/or communicate your WFH Policy to staff.


Preventing People Problems

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