Remote working: Do you have a policy to avoid being 'ghosted'?


Remote working is now the preferred arrangement. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Remote working, where staff do their work from a location other than the physical office space is now the preferred arrangement.

But why is it so attractive? Firstly, it saves a lot of expenses for both the employer and the employee. Costs associated with operating a physical office space may significantly come down in the event of remote working.

Some businesses have gone 100 percent, remote meaning that there is no rent expense.

Remote working is also great for managing occupational health hazards. For example, during Covid-19 several businesses went remote or hybrid in a bid to reduce exposure.

There are several advantages to the employee as well. The employee saves on expenses associated with travelling to work such as transport. Remote working can also lead to an improvement in the work-life balance.

Despite its advantages, remote working is not without its challenges.

Taking the decision to go remote or hybrid is a big step for your business and needs a careful and well-thought-out strategy.

For many start-ups, going remote is not an option. It is the norm in some industries like the technology sector where business is done almost fully digitally.

I would advise one to speak to a technology expert before going remote. The expert will advise on the technological solutions to pursue. It could be investing in software and applications.

Legally speaking, going remote shall definitely have a huge impact on labour practices for any business. The Employment Act does not specifically provide for remote working, it, therefore, remains a grey area in so far as the interpretation of the law is concerned.

This means that when going remote you may have to review the employment contracts to cater for this.

Does your business have a policy on remote working? If not, it is good to have one in place. The remote working policy will clarify the grey areas that come with remote working. Some areas of concern include the definition of working hours.

Employees may abuse remote working by putting in less time than they ought to. Cases of employers being “ghosted” by employees who only resurface on payday are common.

A sound definition of working hours ought to be made. It is difficult to supervise remote working and it is therefore important to have in place a system of supervision and reporting back.

There ought to be a code of conduct for example dressing code. How are staff expected to dress while holding virtual meetings, for example?

Remote working calls for closer monitoring and evaluation of performance. Clear performance indicators ought to be issued. Could it be the run around time or the number of tasks one handles?

Data privacy, confidentiality and intellectual property rights ought to go into the remote policy. There will be a lot of information sharing and transfer.

A policy on ownership and compliance of the information to data protection laws ought to be made.

The employee would want cost reimbursement for costs incurred to support remote working. For example, he or she would want to be reimbursed for internet charges and other associated costs.

Issues of licensing and permits are still applicable for remote workers. The business ought to be licensed and the remote workers ought to have valid qualifications to handle the tasks

The traditional employment contract does not support remote working and therefore one ought to be drawn up while considering all the parameters.

A good contract should include workflows and plans, expectations, performance indicators, working hours, ICT usage and so on.

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

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