Remote Work and the Future of the Workplace

As we’re now seeing glimpses of post-pandemic life, it’s no surprise that one of its biggest impacts has been on the workplace. While previously companies had to stay tethered to an office, many have learned how to innovate and adapt to a remote work environment. 

But with more individuals getting vaccinated and overall COVID-19 cases decreasing, business owners and employees alike are wondering what the future of remote work looks like to them. According to Gartner, more than 80% of company leadership say they’ll allow employees to continue working remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If you’re considering, or have already implemented, a remote work policy in your workplace, here are some insights on managing your employees from our human resources team.

Remote Work Environment Advantages and Disadvantages

The Pros

While it isn’t practical for all industries, remote work has been proven to reveal many benefits such as:

  • Increased productivity 
  • More flexibility (and a better work-life balance)
  • Reduced stress from commute
  • Possible cost savings (i.e. gas, parking, professional wardrobe and less office space needed, thus lower rent)
  • Higher company loyalty
  • Wider talent pool

These benefits are more likely to be seen from companies that are able to figure out a remote or hybrid model that allows employees to work productively and still meet its business needs.

The Cons

Not every company or employee has seen the benefits of remote working. Sometimes it can lead to:

  • Increased isolation
  • More distractions
  • Lack of community
  • Problems with communication
  • Trouble managing accountability

How to Establish Remote Work Policies

Even if your employees are working on a partially remote basis, there should still be clear policies and procedures in place 

Timekeeping

For exempt workers who aren’t eligible for overtime, this may not be as big of a problem. But if you have non-exempt employees who are eligible for overtime, you’ll want to be careful to continue abiding by FLSA rules.

Some ways in which you can keep employees on task is by having regular check-ins so you know who is working on what, with whom, and when. In addition, employers should make it clear if you have flex hours — where employees are able to work when they’re most productive — or standard business hours. Even with flexible hours, you can establish a period of time when you expect employees to be reachable. 

There are also a lot of tools that can help you keep track of remote employees’ hours. Many payroll systems or timekeeping platforms (which you may already have in place) have the option to allow for tracking hours, if you are not already doing so. 

Equipment

One of the trickier parts of remote work or a hybrid workplace is ensuring each of your employees has the tools and resources they need to succeed.

For many companies, it’s as simple as having access to a laptop. But other companies have to get more creative about supporting their employees’ at-home setups. Here are some potential items workers may need:

  • Desk or work area with sufficient space for equipment
  • Ergonomic office chair
  • Desktop or laptop (including a working webcam and microphone)
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard

Some optional items may include an external monitor, phone and office supplies, depending on your employees’ responsibilities.

Your company must determine how this setup is being provided for and make it clear what is still considered company property. You should also establish expectations of how to return equipment in the event of termination, which leads us to the next point.  

Discipline & Termination

Employers can — and should — still establish performance expectations of employees, regardless of the employee’s working location. Employees who are working remotely can still be disciplined for failing to meet your standards. 

With any disciplinary action, employers should document the steps of discipline, including the conversations with the employee and allow the employee an opportunity to improve their performance.  

Unfortunately, if the employee’s performance doesn’t improve, and you move to terminate, it’s best to do so via video conference. This is generally as close to an in-person termination as you can get for your remote workforce.  

Many employers will plan to pay for a courier to retrieve any company equipment or send the terminated employee a prepaid packing slip. Some employers may opt to hold final payment until equipment is returned, but this could be a violation of state law. Employers should continue to adhere to final paycheck laws in the state the employee is working in. 

Remote work is the future of working. How will your company adapt and ensure your employees are set up for success? Get in touch with your Cornerstone human resources representative to ensure your remote work policies are sound. Contact us today!