The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way companies' employees work for better and for worse. For better, the pandemic showed companies their employees could work from home productively. Whether companies are thriving or struggling with work from home, here are a few reminders for best practices.
Have a Good Telecommuting Policy and Remind your Employees of It
A good telecommuting policy will help companies remain consistent with their telecommuting workforce, during and after the Pandemic when work from home may not be required. A typical policy includes at least:
(1) criteria for telecommuting eligibility, the procedure for requesting it, and conditions of such an arrangement. If telecommuting is only permitted during COVID-19 related governmental orders, the policy can state so.
(2) responsibilities, expectations, and logistics: work hours, accessibility during work hours, workplace setup, equipment the employee must provide, use of company equipment, protecting confidential and client information, using a secure network such as the company's Virtual Private Network, expenses for which the employee is responsible and those for which the employer reimburses the employee, what equipment and technical support the employer will provide.
(3) reminders of continued compliance with employer's policies.
Remember Timekeeping Considerations
Instruct employees to record their time, including meal and rest breaks, according to current policies. If a non-exempt employee works time that the employer knows or has a reasonable belief is being performed, that time counts as time worked and must be compensated. Therefore, setting forth the employees' specific job duties and work hours, instructing employees to take their applicable breaks and allowing them to take the breaks and cease work at the scheduled end time will be helpful in avoiding unwanted overtime. This means not emailing employees outside of their scheduled work times and expecting immediate responses. Some employers prohibit off the clock work in their policies and make such work subject to discipline. But employers must ensure they are not making it impossible for their employees to refrain from working off the clock.
Remind employees falsification of time records can result in discipline, including termination.
Continue to Manage Performance and Expectations Remotely
Make use of Zoom and other conference platforms to have communications with your employees as you normally would. Use these opportunities to encourage your employees to continue with expectations and to hold regular mid-year or annual performance evaluation meetings when the time comes. Continue to complete written performance evaluations as well.
If a disciplinary meeting is necessary, you may want to hold a Zoom meeting or telephone call as well as provide a written document.
Continue to Enforce Other Policies, Such as Privacy, Confidentiality and Trade Secrets
Remind employees that their compliance with current policies still applies, including their responsibilities to keep confidential and private client and patient information and company trade secret information. Employees can achieve this by using secure networks and keeping private documents in secure physical locations, such as locked drawers.
Safe Work Environment
Keys to a safe work environment include confirming specific tasks the employee will perform, the location in the home the work will be performed, when breaks should be taken, and what activities are permitted or prohibited during work hours.
Workers can still be eligible for workers' compensation if the injury is found to be sufficiently related to and caused by the performance of the work in the home.
Work-related injuries and illnesses should still be reported to covered employers which need to report such injuries and illnesses under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
These are just a few reminders for best practices in having remote workers.
This article is for educational use only and should not be considered legal advice. It may be considered attorney advertising.