While the pandemic has paved the way for greater WFH opportunities, firms need to establish new practices, policies and regulations to accompany them, according to the principal of Maureen Kyne & Associates.
Maureen Kyne, principal of Maureen Kyne & Associates, said organisations across the board need to implement policies that reflect long-term work-from-home requirements.
“Companies who fail to acknowledge WFH is now a permanent part of the employment landscape leave themselves vulnerable to work, health and safety liability,” she said.
“Businesses haven’t learnt their WFH lesson and it’s impacting on their remote workforce. It’s not a quick fix, it requires considerable thought to adopt a long-term remote policy and even new regulations and guidelines.”
Ms Kyne said whilst there are many benefits to working from home, employers also need to be cautious about how such arrangements can impact staff morale and wellbeing.
“The rise in mental health issues alone suggest companies may not be doing enough for their staff,” she said, warning that the side effects of remote working, mental health issues, discrimination and job disparity will grow and “may result in workers compensation claims unless organisations genuinely invest in a properly thought out remote working model”.
To combat issues stemming from WFH arrangements, Ms Kyne shared her top tips for employers.
1. Promote work/life balance
“Developing a dedicated work-life balance policy will demonstrate your commitment and investment in remote work office. If reports are correct in suggesting remote workers struggle with boundaries then companies need to do more,” Ms Kyne said, encouraging companies to formalise what flexibility looks like for each employee working remotely so that personal and work lives don’t blur.
2. Update your WFH policy
“The home office should offer the same level of safety, support and security and opportunities as the employee would receive at their traditional office. An effective WFH policy will set employees up for success by clearly communicating expectations, responsibilities and conduct,” she said.
3. Prioritise wellness
“Companies must make mental health a priority for employees working remotely,” Ms Kyne said.
“Training sessions, resources like self-assessment checklists and encouraging behaviours that are good for your employees’ health can help identify and manage WFH loneliness, burnout, and stress. Working longer hours in the WFH environment presents a real risk to health and productivity.”
4. Consider HR compliance issues
“Remote work brings new compliance challenges around pay, promotions and fairness,” she said.
“Employees working remotely need to be treated equally to those workers coming into the office and neither group can feel they are at a disadvantage in terms of face time with the boss, access to new work and projects or their performance ignored because of their location.
“Failure to manage this can lead to harassment and discrimination claims.”
5. Host work events, when applicable
“Aspects of company culture that came naturally before may become difficult to maintain,” Ms Kyne said.
“Work events such as team building days, new business meeting or brainstorming sessions are all examples that can get teams back together, in-person, at least some of the time. These events provide employees with a sense of identity, trust and connection.”