President Ramaphosa declared a State of Disaster in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID 19 virus on Sunday evening 16 March 2020. Since Monday morning many employers have requested their employees to work from home or remotely. On Monday evening, 23 March 2020 the President announced a further 21 days lockdown which is bound to have even more employees working remotely. For some employees such as sales reps and academics this is something they have been doing for many years. For the vast majority of new home based workers this a new and uncertain experience.
As this has all happened in less than ten days most employers have not had time to design and implement a remote working policy. The following are some factors which should be considered when designing an employer specific remote working policy:
- Eligibility: Some jobs lend themselves to working from anywhere there is Internet and Wi Fi reception. Production jobs obviously cannot be performed remotely.
- Availability: Should an employer permit working remotely then the employer should specify the availability expectations it has of the employee, for example is expected that the employee must be “at work” during normal business hours.
- Responsiveness: Define whether or not a remote employee is expected to respond to a co-worker immediately and also specify what modes of communication should be used.
- Productivity measurement: A remote work policy should specify how an employee’s productivity will be measured.
- Equipment: Remote workers need the right tools/equipment to enable them to do their work. The employer should state what equipment/tools will wil be made available and which the employer will not provide.
- Technical support: The employer should specify what technical/IT support it will supply and which it cannot provide.
- Redundancy: The employer should clearly state that no employee’s job will declared redundant solely for reasons of working remotely or of site.
- Physical environment: Some employer prefer or require an employee’s remote working environment to be safe and healthy. The proposed work environment may be subject to an inspection before approval for remote work is granted.
- Security: One of big risks an employer with a remote work policy is exposed to is security. Employer date is valuable. Employees working remotely need to extremely vigilant working in public places on open Wi-Fi networks.
- Confidentiality: With employer date used off-site, extreme caution is required to protect the confidentiality of data used remotely.
Having some policy in place is much beter than have no policy dealing with remote working. As more certainty occurs the policy is likely to be adapted.
Writing by Dr R van der Walt from the Department of Industrial Psychology at Fort Hare University. The views expressed are his own and does represent the UFH’s policy or view in any manner.
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