Remote working has moved further and further into the public consciousness, particularly where Coronavirus containment measures have meant that many companies have had to make the move to remote working, whether they like it or not. This move has brought with it new challenges for employees and businesses around the globe, especially when it comes to setting boundaries between home and work life. However, this may just be a chance to appreciate all aspects of life by undertaking a great reset in terms of how we work.
In this alert, we suggest several ways in which to regain equilibrium and reset your work-life balance.
Create a Designated Workspace
We are all social creatures by nature and may not realise just how much we depend on outside stimulation until it is no longer there. The ability to divide up your day, take meaningful breaks and have a dedicated work space will not only help you stay in the right frame of mind but will also make it easier for you to ‘leave the office’ at the end of the day, and get back to family life. Equally important as switching off at the end of the day, is the imperative to signal to others who live with you that you are “at work” – a designated workspace will help with this.
With the loss of the natural rhythm of going to work and returning home, employees may start to work all hours of the day and abandon a clear start and stop time, especially in pressurised professions. Employers’ legal duties do not subside just because their workforce has been dispersed. Businesses should encourage employees to adhere to their contractual working hours, where possible and to take lunch breaks. Workstation assessments can be done remotely, and this is not a discretionary spend to be cut, but rather a timely use of resources to protect both employees and employers.
Privacy and Confidentiality Issues
There has been much debate about bringing your whole self into work, but what if work brings your “whole self” (or more of it than you would wish) out into the open? Who knew you had a Che Guevara poster or a passion for collecting spiders, and what will clients and colleagues make of these peccadillos? Without being overly prescriptive, there is a need to think about how current laws and codes of practice relate to the new order. We need to talk about: Confidentiality, Competing Rights and Company responsibility. Consider buying cross-cut shredders for employees and ensure that when using video conference equipment such as Zoom, the names of clients are not on show in the background. Consider how an employee’s right to privacy may be balanced with their freedom of expression, having regard to the fact that when the camera is on, their home has become a microcosm of work. If the exercise of their freedom infringes another’s rights not to be offended or humiliated in accordance with our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws, then it must be curtailed, and policies adapted to deal with this. Despite the Supreme Court recently defining the limits of vicarious liability, companies remain liable for acts of their employees carried out in the course of employment, so these matters are not safe to be left as matters of personal choice.
Keeping Spirits up
Prolonged isolation could potentially impact on morale and productivity and, in turn, employees may start to lose their sense of self. In times such as this, it’s important to sustain a semblance of normalcy and camaraderie in unconventional ways, like virtual quiz nights or remote happy hours via Zoom or other interactive platforms, as well as continuing with buddy and mentor support – making sure these are prioritised as part of the normal remote day.
As an employer, it’s important to provide clear communication to your employees, especially if there is difficult or potentially unwelcome news to convey. Don’t let employees suffer in silence; whilst it may be tempting to send a quick email, the effort to pick up the phone and check in on co-workers and employees’ mental wellbeing will have a significant impact on their motivation, productivity and passion. Alternatively, turning the simple act of a phone call into a video call adds an important social dimension to the interaction.
Share Tips and Techniques Remotely
Employers should work with their HR teams to curate and circulate advice on building and maintaining resilience amongst the workforce. Be creative and consider delivering talks or bite-sized training sessions on online platforms so employees can join, voluntarily, from home. It’s important to show compassion and understanding during this time and to be considerate of those who may find this time more troubling than others, and signpost counselling and support services where available.
Challenge and invite to you!
Let’s see what we can create here – we have lots of answers, but we don’t have them all. We invite you to share your tips for successful remote working with us at CM Murray and we commit to sharing the best ones in future updates. If you would like to send us suggestions or discuss the matters raised in this alert further, or for guidance on your specific rights, responsibilities and potential liabilities, please contact Partner Merrill April or Trainee Naomi Latham.