For many businesses, working from home was not on their radar until they had no choice, thanks to coronavirus. The pandemic has shown many employers that working from home is not only doable, but viable.
Barriers to remote working had to be overcome – fast. Some big corporates are now announcing they are making permanent home working part of their business model. They include companies like Twitter, Facebook and closer to home, Atlassian.
Led by these big corporates, the flexibility of working from home may become an expected option for employees of small and medium sized businesses.
However, working from home for a temporary stint is quite different to working from home permanently. As a result, making remote working a permanent option for employees brings with it a new set of long-term considerations.
Here are some issues business owners need to consider:
- What happens when the novelty wears off?
Businesses may need to find new ways to keep employees engaged and productive once the novelty of working from home wears off.
- Challenging situations will still arise, even (or especially) when employees are working remotely
In these instances, you’ll need to consider the inability to discuss sensitive issues in person. When dealing with tricky situations using video conferencing or via telephone, employers will need to apply extra care and attention.
- How much of your company culture depends on employees working onsite?
With remote working, company culture can change and a level of informality may slip into your culture. Be prepared for this by ensuring company policies are clear, accessible and that employees are aware of your expectations.
- How will you induct new staff when they’re working remotely?
You may not currently be recruiting, but when you do, you’ll need to know how you are going to introduce new staff to your business so they can hit the ground running. Remote inductions are achievable. However, you need to plan for them well in advance of the next recruitment drive.
- Changing an employee’s place of work (both full or part-time) changes their working conditions
That’s why any moves to make working from home permanent, needs to be made in consultation with each employee. If they agree, you will need to update each staff member’s employment contract as well as consider the changes that may be required regarding workers compensation and other insurances.
- Storage may not be on your radar when considering a change to remote working practices
However, if you downsize the physical footprint of your workplace, will you need to store surplus office furniture or equipment? If furniture and equipment are dispersed into employees’ homes, how will you track and maintain it? What happens to the furniture when an employee leaves?
- What about data storage and IT networking requirements?
Will cloud storage be needed? Will you need additional data security measures and protocols?
- Will your employees need to have a safe place to hold occasional face-to-face meetings?
How far will they need to travel? If your business is reliant on in-person meetings, how will you facilitate these meetings?
- With the ability to work anywhere could your current employees move interstate or possibly overseas and still work for you?
The new reality of working further away from the office adds additional complexity around time zones and potentially, international employment laws.
While remote working ticks the flexible employment box, it comes with additional challenges and complexities for small business. Our HR Dept experts are here to help you develop the right approach to managing your remote workforce – now and into the future.