Remote Working & HR
Thinking out of the box
Lots of us work remotely on an informal basis these days. There are plenty of practical, financial and even health advantages for a business and for everyone concerned. For small companies and start ups it can mean that you can employ more people, far more flexibly and much earlier than if you had to provide office space and technology for them. But you do need to get the HR right. The amount of hours to be gained by factoring out all the hassles and delays caused by travelling to and from work and using technology (even when you are in the office) to hold meetings which you would otherwise have attended in person are just the start of how your business and employees can benefit.
Winter is coming with all the aggravations it brings and for us in Kent we have some staggeringly ill-conceived Brexit contingency planning to contend with as well.
So, even if remote working is not part of your current set up and you are not sure it would work for your business all the time, this is a pretty good time to ask yourself "What happens if my staff CAN'T get into work? and make sure you have got the HR implications taped - just in case.
Who knows? You might find it works better than you expected - stand by to think out of the box - or at least out of the office!
As I write, miles of the M20 are cordoned off and a 4-tier contingency plan to deal with queues of thousands of heavy goods vehicles using a 13.5 mile stretch of the motorway between Maidstone and Ashford as a holding area is now underway. The 4-lane southbound carriageway will be closed and a 2-lane contraflow will enable traffic to continue on to the Channel ports.
Further plans to use the M26 to park up even more lorries.
I’m skipping over the details here, in the current state of confusion about all things Brexit, everything is fluid (except traffic flow apparently).
But what is clear is that businesses need some contingency plans of their own. HR-wise, employers need to consider what they are going to do if staff are unable to get in, or if journey times to and from work or external meetings are subject to regular long delays.
Logistics and Transportation firms have even greater issues to deal with in terms of their drivers’ working hours and conditions and it would be as well to plan for worse case scenarios even if we continue to hope that something sensible will eventually emerge from this mess.
But when PM Theresa May recently told the Commons that Brexit negotiations were entering their final stages, MPs fell about laughing.
For staff who travel to work, now would be a very good time to look at what you might need to put in place so that your people can work from home if needed.
Look on the bright side, getting some good practices in place for remote working in an emergency will stand you in good stead during periods of severe weather as well as severe Brexit-related aggravation. And how great would it be if people with colds could do what they need to do without coming into work and giving it to everyone else?
There are a few HR issues to consider. It’s not that difficult to sort out a business plan to allow people to work from home, there are quite a few benefits to it in fact - significant financial savings and productivity improvements for a start - and bear in mind that Tiger HR can help you with all or some of this.
Let’s have a look at what your contingency planning (to cope with HM Government's contingency planning) needs to cover to be a success and help you avoid losses and keep your business running smoothly:
1. Work out exactly who really needs to be on site for the business to function.
2. What kind of work can be done offsite on a short or long term basis. Figure out your minimum requirement. It’s more tricky if you have a business where customers come to you and someone has to be there to serve them.
3. It’s not so much an HR issue, though it might be if it’s the difference between keeping staff on or not, but if your customers tend to travel to your premises, you might want to look at boosting your more local marketing and advertising to increase you customer base in your more immediate vicinity.
4. Look at whether you can add features to your website so that customer interactions can be handled there. Train reliable staff to deal with them and you have a lot more tasks that can be done outside of the workplace.
5. Review where your staff live and who is most likely to have trouble getting into work. Be ready to work on your rotas and shift planning so that you can rearrange thing. Flexible hours can help people to avoid peak traffic times for instance. If you are located in Kent near the most critical Operation Brock areas, peak times may not just be the standard rush hour. Use your local knowledge.
6. You know your staff, not everyone is suited to working offsite. If you employ a young or inexperienced workforce for instance, you may feel that they need supervision. Young employees tend not to travel so far to work however, so they are less likely to be affected. Maybe you can train some of them to take on more responsibility in the event that more senior staff are held up.
Of course, not every job is suitable for remote work! But many office, marketing & creative and even retail tasks certainly can be done from home.
7. What’s your working culture like? Trust is a great thing to foster regardless of monster snowstorms or Brexit chaos, and it is the foundation of a successful shift towards allowing people to work unsupervised.
8. Discourage staff and managers from calling and emailing each other or or at least feeling that they have to answer any communications out of hours or during a break. Modern informal working cultures have a tendency to blur the distinction between work and homelife and it's not good for people, full stop. It's good practice to lay down some guidelines.
9. Technology is your friend - it makes so much possible. But it can also pose the biggest issues related to working offsite. When devices are travelling about with people or being used outside of your premises it is absolutely ESSENTIAL that staff are trained in, and required to use, bulletproof security measures. This is even more essential if company data protected by GDPR is accessible on a travelling device. Remote desktop management software that can be accessed only by high security passwords is the best way to handle this. Team password managers like Lastpass are an essential bit of kit to help with this.
10. Good communications and collaboration tech that supports remote working does not by any means have to be expensive - a lot of it is free and can be maintained and controlled centrally. At Tiger HR we use Slack - forget the rest, it is so easy to learn and is not only fantastically useful for collaborative work and chat, it's a great way to keep in touch with one another. VOIP Softphones that work on desktop or mobile allow offsite staff to answer and make calls from a company number. Also look at video conferencing - there are numerous options. Google Hangouts are a favourite but there are many options. Even people who are sitting next to eachother will enjoy using desktop video recorders to provide explanations of tasks to colleagues. Loom is a hot contender in this space, quick to use and not heavy on computer resources.
11. If you are going to extend remote working beyond a few management staff, or even just put some tools and guidelines in place as a contingency plan, you should review your Employee Handbook and make sure there are some sturdy guidelines in place for working offsite. Tiger HR can assist you with this as well as any issues related to contracts or remuneration that might need adjusting. It's also a good idea to have a word with your insurers and make sure your equipment that travels offsite has the protection it needs against loss, damage or theft.
Go Remote - we can help
Tiger HR: Ready to jump in when you need us
Tel: 01233 227 356
Latest posts by Sebastian Mattern (see all)
- Remote Working & HR: Thinking out of the box - October 29, 2018
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- Planning for Pressure How to dial back stress when everything's happening at once - August 3, 2018