Remote worker: How to avoid being 'ghosted' by employees

Woman working from home. FILE PHOTO | NMG

I have an IT company that develops software for clients. Most of the performance of tasks is done virtually and therefore I have adopted a remote working model.

I have also invested in software and applications that enable collaborative working to go on remotely.

My staff come in once a week for update reports and the rest of the days they work remotely.

So far, this model has been good. However, I have faced a few disciplinary issues with a few staff members.

In one of the cases, the staff in question did not deliver the required output on time and he also did not pick up our calls or respond to our text messages for one month.

This has caused a lot of delays in the overall delivery and affected the business performance.

He then resurfaced at the end of the month when it was time to be paid. I asked him to improve his turnaround time and communication but he has refused to comply.

I am thinking of terminating him and also streamlining my remote working model to avoid such incidences. What tips would you give me to avoid such incidences in future? –Paul.

Dear Paul, while many businesses are embracing remote working, it has raised some issues that can be termed as emerging human resource trends for organisations.

If structured well, it has several advantages. Other than cost savings, there are numerous advantages to be gained by both employers and employees.

However, for this model to work you need to have the right structures and the right contracts to cater for the emerging issues.

One of the issues that are peculiar to remote working is the “working hours.”

How does an employer define working hours and how do you ensure that staff are working during these working hours?

A second issue is supervision. How do you supervise a staff member remotely?

Other issues include ownership of the works, data privacy, confidentiality, data transfer and so on.

You have already mentioned that you have put in place software and other technological solutions to support remote working.

This is important for the model to be successful. There are many technological solutions available in the market to support staff remote working.

A key legal issue to look into is the employment contract. The traditional employment contract cannot wholly support remote working due to several reasons.

I, therefore, advise you to consult a lawyer to draft for you a bespoke employment contract that can support remote working.

One of the issues you can explore with your lawyer is to clarify exactly what the employee output is.

Is the model a task-oriented model or do you prefer the employee to put in a number of hours every day?

Your lawyer will help you to draft a suitable agreement that clearly defines the working hours and the expected output. If you opt for a flexible hours/result-oriented model it is important to define this.

This model is where the employee is expected to have completed certain tasks satisfactorily by a certain date.

In the contract, you will need to include provisions on communication and feedback. In the traditional employment contract, absenteeism is a ground for termination.

I take the view that being “ghosted” by your employee in a remote working model, is tantamount to absenteeism and therefore a ground for termination.

I advise you to draft a detailed tailor-made contract to cater for all the emergent issues that arise with remote working.

Ms Mputhia is the founder of C Mputhia Advocates | [email protected]

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