Determining Terms for Team Telecommuting Agreements: Common Challenges and Risks to Watch Out For
In one of my previous blogs, I spoke about how remote work was going to be one of the biggest trends of this decade. Little did I realize it would become one of the biggest trends of this very year, with social distancing protocols meant to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic driving businesses across the country to hastily enact remote work policies so they could keep their employees working and try to stay in business.
I say “hastily” enacted because many of these transitions were not always thought through since they weren’t intended to be long term changes, but rather quick fixes that would be rescinded after only a few weeks. However, as the battle against the pandemic continues to be fought, people have been forced to quarantine for longer and longer. Businesses are now facing issues they were not expecting, in addition to having to extend and adjust their remote work agreements.
Indeed, California has implemented a stay at home order since mid-March, and though there are plans for select businesses to begin reopening soon, the possibility of a resurgence of infections resulting in another quarantine order is too great to ignore. No one can say for sure when things will go back to normal, it’s entirely possible this may become the new normal, which is why small business owners must continue to improve their policies so they can try to make the most of it, especially concerning remote work agreements.
In another of my earlier blogs, I covered three key factors to managing a remote team. That advice still stands, but in this blog, I’d like to go over some of the challenges and risks you should consider when developing telecommuting agreements. These agreements serve as the foundation for your team’s remote working experience, as well as your ability to effectively manage them. Like any foundation, it requires proper reinforcement and structure, otherwise it’ll crumble and crack beneath your feet. Too many businesses have already been lost to the pandemic, if you want to boost the chances of your company making it through, I suggest you find ways to incorporate these tips into your own business plans.
The first factor you’ll want to consider when reevaluating your telecommuting agreement is the protection of your employees’ tools and technology. With employees working from home and using their own internet connections, employers must take steps to ensure their employees face as little risk as possible of compromising their tools or documents, including regarding the actions of those same employees.
As a general rule, employers should provide an acceptable use agreement that stipulates approved uses for company computers, programs, and data, including what sort of online activity and media is prohibited. What’s more, you should already have your IT team install protective tools such as firewalls, antivirus software, and other such programs onto company provided computers. Still, it’s always better to review that these protections are properly in place, and to reiterate policies to employees if you feel they are not being followed.
Make sure remote workers are only using secured networks when accessing the internet, instruct them to avoid visiting potentially dangerous sites, and see to it that their computers are outfitted with the proper protections as well.
Next, you’ll want to make sure your telecommuting agreement covers the safety standards your employees will be expected to follow. Employees who are injured while working from home may still be entitled to workers’ compensation, so it’s important you instruct them to keep their remote workplace as clear of obstructions as possible.
However, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that even unexpected disasters can always strike. As such, make sure you outline first aid procedures and emergency response information in your telecommuting agreement, that way remote workers will be able to act accordingly should they suffer an injury on the job.
On the subject of accidents and assistance, you’ll need to prepare for the possibility of technological issues taking much longer to resolve than usual. In an ordinary office setting, an employee whose computer malfunctions would be able to meet with an IT specialist and either have the issue quickly resolved, or be provided an alternative computer to work on while the specialist works on the afflicted machine. Now that everyone’s working from home, getting the people who need help in contact with the people who can help them is sure to prove difficult.
Problems like these don’t typically have one-size-fits-all solutions, it will depend on you to develop your own unique answers, and doing so may require some trial and error. As such, finding the best ways to resolve matters may mean deadlines get missed or compromises will have to be made, so employers and employees must be patient and understanding of one another in order to make the most of what we all have to work with.
This pandemic is offsetting plans across the board, no one was ready for it and everyone is still trying to keep up with it, so do not be discouraged if it takes a few tries to develop effective solutions to unexpected problems. The most important thing to focus on is that we all stay safe, that we all support one another through these trying times, that we all work together to create success that none of us could achieve on our own.