As employers consider what their organisation’s post-pandemic return to work might be, one thing is certain: working from home arrangements will become part of the new normal.
Creating a sustainable flexible work environment requires consideration of many aspects of business operations. From human resources to health and safety and diversity initiatives, employers are faced with a multitude of issues to consider when developing a working from home framework which meets market demands, sustains company culture, and is legally compliant.
Below are six tips to help guide employers through this area:
Properly document working arrangements
As employers begin to formalise working from home arrangements, documenting the agreed location(s) of work is not only best practice, but is legally required.
For new employees, consider incorporating hybrid or remote working language into offer letters and employment agreements. This not only ensures legal compliance where necessary, but also clarifies working arrangement expectations with new hires from the commencement of employment.
Tread carefully when considering requests for cross-border remote working
While the concept of being able to work from anywhere in the world may be appealing to employees, employers ought to be cautious when considering such requests. Cross-border working raises a host of issues—from corporate and income tax implications, to work permit and data privacy considerations.
From an employment perspective, cross-border remote work can implicate the labour and social security/insurance remittance laws of both localities, potentially leaving an employer at risk of claims or fines if the proper laws have not been considered. The ability to protect intellectual property and confidential information can also be impacted where there is a dispute about which law applies to the employment relationship.
Understand the employer obligations regarding expenses for a home-working arrangement
Employers ought not only consider the business cost impact of working from home, but also ought to understand the legal obligations relating to expenses and equipment. In particular, employers should be aware of what home-working expenses must be borne by the employer and what expenses must or can be reimbursed. Similarly, an understanding of whether home office equipment must be provided is also important.
The permissibility of allowances, as well as their impact on other compensation elements, should be taken into consideration. In certain jurisdictions, an allowance may need to be included in the calculation of other compensation such as bonuses, vacation pay, and severance, increasing overall costs.
Evaluate occupational health and safety issues that are specific to working from home
Working from home, whether on a fully remote or hybrid basis, introduces new health and safety considerations for employers. As a starting point, consider the legal obligations. For instance, some countries have health and safety requirements that are specific to the remote working environment such as conducting audits of the workspace or providing certain equipment.
Then, consider other health and safety issues such as mental health and employee wellbeing from the remote working perspective. While there may be health and wellbeing initiatives in place for office workers, consider how these initiatives translate to remote workers. For example, remote workers may be more prone to feelings of isolation than those in the office. As such, mental health initiatives need to adapt and evolve to reflect the wellbeing issues that employees may face in a flexible working environment.
Ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion procedures consider remote working employees
Diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts remain a top priority for many employers. As flexible working arrangements become a more standard offering, DEI policies and practices must take into account the impact of hybrid and remote working. For example, consider how mentoring and leadership training programs are best structured and delivered to hybrid and remote workers and ensure opportunities for all employees, irrespective of their work arrangement.
Embrace hybrid and remote working as a recruitment tool
Employees want flexibility and in the post-pandemic era; they will be expecting it as an option. If hybrid and remote working becomes the new norm as expected, companies that develop a more comprehensive flexible working plan can leverage that internal framework as a tool to attract talent. Being able to offer not only the option of flexibility, but a thoughtful and holistic business approach will help distinguish companies as employers of choice.