As the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world, companies were forced to adapt or close their doors. For many companies, this meant allowing some or all of their workers to work remotely. As restrictions tightened, more and more companies were attempting to allow their employees to stay home, look after family members, and complete their work duties.
One of the biggest impacts on companies was the speed at which they had to take such a drastic step. However, many of the world’s largest companies not only managed to do it successfully, but they are also going to allow their staff to keep doing it into the future.
International tech companies are leading the way with remote working possibilities.
Even though restrictions are lifting, Facebook, Twitter, Square, and Coinbase, just to name a few, have all released statements that they will allow their employees to continue working from home for the rest of the year. Not only that, but Twitter and Facebook will be making this a permanent option for employees.
Facebook surveyed its employees, and 40% of them thought they would take advantage of this option, and of those that indicated this, 75% said that they may even be able to move to a different city to better suit their lifestyle needs.
It’s a big move for many companies, but one that could ultimately end up establishing a better working relationship between employees and employers, increasing productivity, opening up new geographical employment possibilities and also reducing operating costs associated with office buildings.
What responsibilities do employers have to employees that are working remotely?
Businesses need to understand what responsibilities they have regarding their employee’s safety, health, and well-being. For some employees, working from home is a flexible arrangement that suits their lifestyle, but for others, it can be quite stressful. Some employees will thrive working from home, while others will struggle.
If companies are considering making remote working a permanent situation, they should speak with all employees and gauge what their thoughts and feelings are. You may find that some employees prefer working from home. When you know who wants to work where, you may be able to make some staff changes and ensure that the majority of employees are happy.
Along with employee’s mental health and well-being, employers are still obligated to ensure that employees working from home have a safe working environment. In most countries around the world, including New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, employees working from home are still protected under worker's compensation laws.
Employers need to ensure that employees are working in a safe working environment. This includes factors such as ergonomic seating, monitors at the correct height, lighting, non-slip surfaces, fire alarms, extinguishers and emergency exits. Visiting and inspecting each employee home is not a practical solution for most businesses, so a thorough checklist should be developed which can be sent to employees.
Another option would be home inspections through any number of video conferencing applications such as FaceTime or Zoom. This would allow you to satisfy your obligations while also ensuring that your employees are working in a safe environment.
Along with ensuring that employees have a safe working environment, employers need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities surrounding worker’s compensation. If an employee injures themselves at home while performing their work duties, then the employer in most cases is going to be responsible for the costs associated with this injury, the same as if the employee was at work.
It may be a good idea for employers to consult with their work cover insurance providers before making any big decisions on how or if employees work remotely.
A lot of companies are finding that working remotely is a viable and productive option for their business and their employees. Still, you must understand what your rights and responsibilities are during this phase as restrictions are eased.
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