The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to switch to a remote workforce. This rapid shift has reshaped the landscape of the American workforce, and will likely have far-reaching consequences. Although for many employers, remote working is just a temporary response to the global pandemic, several large companies have recently announced a permanent or long-term move to a remote workforce. While there can be many benefits to working from home, there are some unique challenges. Below are five practical tips employers should consider when managing a remote workforce.
1. Develop a Work-From-Home Policy
Companies with a remote workforce should have a clear work-from-home policy that sets forth expectations and communicates guidelines. A good work-from-home policy should mention that not all positions are suitable for remote work, and expressly state that the employer retains the discretion to decide whether a job can be adequately performed in a remote work environment. These policies should also be clear as to whether the work-from-home policy is simply a temporary response to the pandemic, or whether it will continue long-term. Additionally, these policies should articulate the steps an employee must take to safeguard company information, address the equipment the employee needs, and state whether any business-related expenses will be reimbursed.
2. Ensure Remote Workers Properly Track Time
An important obligation employers continue to have in a remote setting is to accurately record and compensate non-exempt employees for all hours worked, including overtime employers should delineate a clear process for tracking employees’ hours and remind employees in writing about its time-keeping policies. Additionally, employers should consider establishing specific work hours for each employee, including any lunch or rest breaks, and taking into account any alternative schedules which may be necessary for child care. Where a deviation from the schedule or a leave of absence is required, employers should set forth the process for communicating these requests.
3. Keep Remote Workers Engaged
A significant concern for most employers managing a remote workforce is maintaining productivity. Training supervisors to manage a remote workforce can assist with increasing employee productivity. Generally, successful supervisors provide clear performance expectations, set measurable goals, apply policies consistently, and regularly communicate with their team. Where appropriate, supervisors should provide recognition and positive feedback, and employers should consider facilitating team building activities to increase morale and engagement.
4. Establish Safety Guidelines
Depending on the circumstances, employers may be liable for on the job injuries even if they occur in a remote worksite. To limit these types of safety issues, employers should provide some clear guidelines setting forth the safety expectations the company has for maintaining equipment and setting up the remote workspace. Additionally, employers should remind employees the company expects the employee to maintain a safe workspace, and practice the same safety habits they would in their office on the employer’s premises.
5. Consider Possible Tax Consequences
Finally, with many remote workers moving across state lines, a unique issue employers now face is addressing the resulting tax implications. Depending on the circumstances, and the applicable state and local laws, an employers’ withholding and other tax responsibilities may be impacted. We recommend employers contact an attorney or tax consultant to address these issues.