After a year of dealing with lockdowns, most organisations are wishing the problem would go away rather than looking to implement policies that reflect long-term work-from-home (WFH) requirements.
Too many companies are still experimenting and don't know the right way to manage a remote workforce.
By failing to grasp that the way we work has fundamentally changed, they have left a significant part of the workforce poorly supported.
Companies who fail to acknowledge WFH is now a permanent part of the employment landscape leave themselves vulnerable to work, health and safety liability.
It's not a quick fix, it requires considerable thought to adopt a long-term remote policy.
The rise in mental health issues alone suggest companies are not doing enough for their staff.
Providing access to an employee assistance program and maintaining regular contact and well-being check-ins by managers or HR is critical to ensuring we all achieve a work-life balance.
Side effects of remote working - mental health issues, discrimination and job disparity - will grow and may result in compensation claims unless organisations genuinely invest in a properly thought out remote working model.
To combat issues, employers should consider the following:
- Promote balance: Developing a dedicated work-life balance policy will demonstrate your commitment and investment in remote work offices. Companies should formalise what flexibility looks like for each employee so that personal and work lives don't blur.
- Update WFH policy: The home office should offer the same safety, support and opportunities as the employee would receive at their traditional office.
- Prioritise wellness: Companies must make mental health a priority for employees working remotely. Training sessions, resources like self-assessment checklists and encouraging behaviours good for employee health can help identify and manage loneliness, burnout, and stress.
- Consider HR compliance issues: Remote work brings new compliance challenges around pay, promotions and fairness. Failure to manage this can lead to harassment and discrimination claims.
The pandemic has paved the way for a new type of working.
If organisations want to retain staff and avoid the risk of claims, they need to draft a WFH model that reflects complete fairness.
Maureen Kyne is principal of Maureen Kyne & Associates and is a workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination specialist.