Telecommuting Basics

The sudden rise of COVID-19 has likely required you to implement work from home policies, also frequently referred to as telecommuting or working remotely. Two weeks ago we offered some preliminary tips for business owners concerned with COVID-19 and the impact on their business. This is our follow up.

There are a lot of excellent reasons to adopt telecommuting policies beyond a quick reaction to this pandemic, especially for those of us who are impacted by hurricanes. Research has shown that the ability to telecommute improves employee satisfaction. In an era of tight employment, the opportunity to telecommute can be the benefit that keeps present employees and attracts new ones. Beyond that, contrary to fears of some managers, the ability to telecommute for at least part of the work week has been linked to increases in productivity. Also, if done on a permanent basis, it can cut employer costs for office space.

However, whatever the merits or limitations of working from home, as the concern about COVID-19 increases, employers are coming under increasing pressure to permit telecommuting wherever possible. Both employees who want to protect their own health and government agencies tasked with public health are strongly advocating for workers to do so remotely.

Some things to consider

Act now:

We already know that our region has been hit. As a business person, you understand very well the need for contingency planning and risk management. If you must transition some or all of your employees to telecommuting, you won’t have several weeks to plan it out. Start now.

Plan:

Working from home is more than just using a laptop at the kitchen table. Assign a cross-functional team to begin planning how this can be implemented. Determine which employees can most easily adopt to a telecommuting plan. Also, just because an employee needs to be on-site for their job, it doesn’t mean all their their duties must be done in the workplace. Anything you can do to limit their on-site presence will lower the risk of infection.

Data security:

Identify how you will handle security. For instance, should you forbid employees from using any public wi-fi locations because it places your data at risk of cyber-crime? Are there physical materials needed, which, when removed from the office represent a security threat? Address how to handle these issues now. Don’t wait for a problem to arise and need to handle it after the fact.

Overtime rules:

Don’t forget that some workers may be subject to federal, state, and local overtime regulations. Telecommuting cannot be used to circumvent, even inadvertently, these rules. Be sure to emphasize procedures regarding standard work hours and overtime.

Remote access tools, remote desktop solutions, and collaboration tools:

Your team will need to agree upon the best tools that everyone will be using to handle virtual collaboration and train users ahead of time.

Communicate:

Finally, make plans for how employees and their managers will maintain the appropriate level of contact to optimize productivity. Because one just can’t stop by the next office and drop in to catch up on the status of projects, etc., communication can be a casualty of an ill-planned  telecommuting policy.

It is likely you will need to address all of these things under a very tight deadline. Contact Rent-A-Nerd, Inc. (504-301-1094) for a consultation on how to address your technology needs.