Before COVID-19 put the world at a standstill, remote work numbers were already on the rise. With little choice if they wanted to continue operations during the pandemic, more and more businesses turned to a remote workforce. Now, it seems this “trend” is here to stay.
Key statistics from US Census data confirm this enduring trend: Between 2019 and 2021, the number of people working from home tripled to about 27 million.
Even with reports of increased productivity and employee happiness, managing a remote workforce has its challenges. In order to ensure this new era of work is successful, we have to make adjustments to allot for cultural issues, compliance requirements, and logistics.
Workforce Compliance In The Face of Remote Work
Because the concept is still relatively new, there are no laws that govern remote workspaces. Still, logistical changes mean there are some additional compliance risks you must prepare for.
Tracking Hours and Processing Payroll
Working from home is a unique challenge because the lines between work and home blur for so many employees. You may find they put in overtime and “off the clock” hours they aren’t being paid for. While this may not be an issue initially, unpaid wages may come back to bite you should that employee ever leave the company.
To protect yourself and ensure your employees stay happy and productive, make sure they log all their hours. There are many software solutions that make this process quick and simple.
Be sure to pay remote employees at least minimum wage. It’s important to note that although each state has its own minimum wage, you may find some cities and counties have higher minimums than the state. As a rule of thumb, it’s typically best to adhere to the laws which are most beneficial to your employees.
Meal Periods And Rest Breaks
Work-life balance is just as important when working remotely as it is within the workplace. Employees must be allotted the same meal periods and rest breaks required by law.
Other Important Compliance Concerns
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. As with any workplace, you must be prepared for a number of different compliance issues. Other important matters may include:
- Remote work leaves room for additional opportunities for harassment, such as inappropriate attire or offensive background objects on video meetings. Communicating and providing employees with documented expectations can ensure that remote meetings are a safe and productive space for all.
- Handling workplace poster requirements for remote employees can be tricky, especially if you have employees working in different states. The best way to ensure your company is covered is to mail hard copies of mandatory workplace posters. This includes federal as well as appropriate state posters and notices.
- Some employees may no longer be eligible for FMLA leave when working from a home office. To learn more about the regulations, download the Remote Work Guide PDF.
- With the shift to remote work, consider whether employees will incur any reasonable and necessary expenses when working from home. Setting clear guidelines for employees will help lessen any opportunity to take advantage of the company.
Logistics for Remote Employees
You’ll find some companies are more comfortable than others sending employees home to work. Still, setting clear guidelines for telecommuting is a great idea to avoid any incidences or misunderstandings down the road.
Creating a Remote Work Policy
As we’ve mentioned before, remote work creates unique challenges. Creating a policy that communicates expectations both on your part as an employer and on the part of the employee helps set the tone for a satisfying and productive remote work experience.
- A strong remote work policy will address items such as:
- Who is eligible for remote work
- How to submit requests to work from home
- Expectations of productivity and hours worked
- Security requirements
- How and when to contact other employees and managers
- Alcohol and drug use
Communicating With Remote Workers
It can be so easy to get caught up with the ever-growing number of communication apps and solutions. It’s best to limit the number of apps to eliminate any confusion and opportunities for missed notifications or deadlines.
Creating Culture In a Remote Environment
Every leader knows how vital company culture is to encouraging collaboration, boosting morale, and driving engagement among employees. But, how do you translate this more intangible aspect of work life to a remote environment?
- Create virtual hang-out spaces that make it easy for employees to check in with one another during downtime.
- Encourage employees to get to know each other with a software program that randomly pairs them for short, virtual chats.
- Bring your morale-boosting activities to a virtual setting. You can easily adapt events like birthday celebrations, happy hours, or Q&A sessions with video meeting rooms.
The Future Of Your Workplace
The recent shift into remote work has provided us with a special opportunity to examine what really works and what really isn’t working for our respective companies. Have you been trying to dial in on how to create a more collaborative environment? Do you think a flexible work schedule would inspire more productivity? You can even survey employees to receive direct input from the people your policies impact most. Now is the time to consider how you’d like your workplace to look in the future.
For more information on remote workplace culture, potential compliance issues, and how to adapt to the changing workforce, download the full Remote Work Guide PDF.
Contact our team at The HR Ally to learn more about how we are helping small businesses navigate the remote workforce.