Have Your Employees Asked to WFH (Work From Hawaii)?
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HR Blog by Rachel Rabinovitch
There are many changes to the workplace that have outlived the increased health and safety and legislative changes that COVID-19 brought with it in early 2020. One of the biggest changes has been the shift to employees working from home or another remote location. By now, most organizations have realized the opportunities and potential that allowing employees to work remotely has brought to their workforces (think flexibility, decreased overhead costs, employee engagement, increased work-life balance, etc.), but what about employees who ask to work from a vacation spot, be it a local ski resort or an exotic international destination?
Responding to Employees’ WFH Requests
You may personally be on the fence or of the mindset that employees should be in the office in order to be productive, or at the very least, working a hybrid schedule to allow for some face-to-face time. You may even feel, as an employer, that you have given up a lot by allowing remote work. However, studies have shown that most knowledge workers (if they enjoy it) can be just as productive, if not more, working from home and that the benefits typically outweigh the costs where remote work is feasible. In fact, many organizations have given up physical office space in light of the reduced number of employees needing a workspace (hello savings!). If you’re still not convinced, you may feel that employees are now asking for even more by wanting to work from a location that was not originally agreed to.
What is your response?
Do you immediately say no and tell them to come into the office, or are you totally in favour of remote work and immediately say yes without ever thinking about it again? To be frank, neither of these responses is best practice, so how should you approach these requests and come to a decision?
It’s important to take a step back and assess the organization’s position on requests such as remote work. There are many personal or professional reasons why employees may want to work while in a remote destination, such as the employee wanting a change of scenery for mental health, doesn’t have many vacation days and can’t afford to lose salary, wanting to join their family on a trip but not miss work, or perhaps already have a pre-scheduled vacation, but some important assignment comes up before they leave. Some of these circumstances may warrant working from a remote destination, and some may not, according to the organization’s position. We recommend always having a policy in place that covers when requests will be approved and when they won’t be, among other things. A policy will provide guidelines and consistency for employees and managers, who will be the ones getting these requests.
Why Is Consistency Important?
Consistency is a fundamental contributor to how employees perceive they are treated. Therefore, it’s important for employee engagement that a framework exists for decision-making — so that employees know that decision-making was applied fairly. If not for consistency, a policy helps outline the other considerations that should be contemplated before approving or denying requests.
A remote work request may seem straightforward at first glance; however, there are many factors, especially when the destination is not a 3-hour drive to the lake or the mountain.
Therefore, your organization’s remote work policy should include details on the following:
- Whether the position can be successfully done remotely (an objective assessment should be done)
- Whether the location will provide access to a secure and reliable internet connection (utilizing a VPN or other safeguards)
- Whether the location will allow for the protection of confidential information
- Outlining the expectations surrounding work hours, performance, and employee accessibility (i.e., will they pick up the phone if they get a call?)
- Outlining the proper equipment needed, where it will come from and any limitations of using company property (computer, phone, monitor/accessories)
- If there is a duration to the agreement, or are there maximum weekly/monthly remote hours permitted
- If a hybrid schedule would make the most sense for the business
- If the organization has IT limitations or exceptions
- If additional software is required to work remotely
- If there are any international considerations; it is important to check the local labour laws where the employee will be working to see if any apply
- If there are tax and immigration implications
- Assessing the employee’s performance and whether they will be effective working remotely
- Outlining health and safety requirements and considerations
Remote Work Brings Its Own Set of Risks
Before any remote work is approved for the organization, it is imperative that employee safeguards and technological safeguards are put in place to ensure employees’ health and protect confidential information, including the organization’s systems, and that employees are trained on digital safety. Even without the increased threat of remote work, digital safety is a key aspect of business today. Each organization is unique, and their needs regarding safety, security and workplace policies will therefore differ.
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If you need assistance with creating customized workplace policies, reach out to our Human Resources Consultants today!