Are your collaboration tools and HR policies aligned for the “new normal?”

March 2020 saw a spike in demand for cloud-based collaboration solutions to help businesses stay connected to their customers and employees. Today, personal and work-life has become closely integrated as much of the workforce is working remotely. Governments have mandated businesses to shut their physical operations, leaving them to adapt to the only available alternative: working remotely. Today, working from home is the “new normal” adapted by organizations both large and small.

Stats show that almost 40% of the population is currently working from home.

With this now being the “new normal”, the pressure is mounting to devise HR policies in accordance with the current reality.

In the pre-pandemic days, many new hires went through live, HR led, onboarding and orientation processes in the office. Today, most of these and other corporate meetings utilize on-line collaboration platforms like GoTo Meeting, Slack, WebEx, Zoom, and GlobalMeet. Furthermore, employees are being remotely introduced to their new companies’ HR policies, including codes of conduct, work hours, and information security. But when an employee is working from home, do existing HR policies still apply? Are they enforced?

What to consider when reviewing HR policies in a work-from-home world?

Employee Accountability

Employees need to be reminded that despite long-term work from home arrangements, they are expected to remain productive.

  1. Tracking the work hours – With employees working from home, there is reduced or no direct supervision. This requires employers to monitor employee work hours and overtime along with clear policies around work hours, overtime, the requirement of pre-approvals for overtime, rest periods, meal breaks, and maximum hours of work.
  2. Monitoring and managing employee productivity – Employers need to find effective ways to measure employee productivity. This can include:
    • Mandatory work hours that may be adjusted based on an employee’s child and family obligations
    • Tracking and reporting of work hours
    • Maintaining accountability in accordance with expectations set by managers and supervisors
    • Providing for a support system

To determine performance issues being encountered by employees, an employer will need to understand the nature of work each employee is doing and the amount of time taken to accomplish it successfully, which may be different in a work from home setting.
Team management, in a remote setting, puts more challenges on a manager’s plate. Fortunately, there are many collaboration tools to help you successfully navigate in this environment.

List of online tools to facilitate Work-from-Home

Productivity, time tracking and managing project deliverables is a growing concern for employers amid the work from home setting due to Covid-19. But it should be one less thing to worry about with the availability of several online tools and apps, like:

  • Harvest for employee time tracking
  • Basecamp a web-based project management tool
  • GlobalMeet for the day to day collaboration via phone calls, internet calls, video calls along with offering web and video conferencing that can be taken from a laptop/desktop or the phone
  • Slack for team messaging and direct messaging

Logistical Considerations

More than ever before, companies need to review policies and provide clear instructions, and expectations regarding how an employee is supposed to handle company property along with protecting confidential information.

  1. Technology related policies – Technology policies need to be reviewed to continue facilitating employees working from home. These policies need to ensure three main things:
    1. Employees are equipped with necessary devices to assure productivity
    2. Employees act responsibly and take ownership of devices and assure the information stored on them remains secure
    3. Employees understand what technology-related expenses are eligible for reimbursement
  2. Protecting the company’s property and confidential information – There are potential risks to confidential information, documents, and data stored on devices being used by employees while working from home. To mitigate this risk, employers should deployclear instructions for the continued protection of company property and confidential information, which needs to include rules related to:
    1. Secure storing of company information
    2. Requirements for passwords and encryptions on company-owned and personal devices
    3. Use of company devices for personal use
    4. Use of personal Wi-Fi networks that are secure and password protected
    5. How to approach telephone or video conferencing calls in public
    6. Protocols in case of a security breach
    7. Best practices for disposing or destroying company records and information
    8. Employee responsibility for the protection of company devices and information from unauthorized access, usage or even destruction

For employees to understand their obligations, it is necessary for employers to provide specific guidelaines, training and clearly communicate all relevant policies.

There is a dire need to review existing HR policies and create standard protocols for employees to be safe as well as productive when working from home.

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