REOPENING THE WORKPLACE AS REMOTE WORK CONTINUES
Organisations across the globe are beginning to reopen, but part of reopening requires adjusting to the “new normal”, which may still include a need for some employees to work remotely. Employers should anticipate that for a myriad of reasons employees may request to continue working remotely, and alternatively a need to downsise office space for economic reasons may demand that some employees (or even entire departments) work remotely.
Across the globe, national governments and administrative bodies are providing guidelines and best practices for teleworking during this unprecedented time:
- In the U.S. the EEOC released updated guidance regarding reasonable accommodations employers can consider for continued telework arrangements.
- The UK Government continues to release updated guidance on working safely during COVID-19, including when it is appropriate to work from home and issues to be mindful of.
- The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) released guidance for employers on how to implement teleworking and best practices for employees in this context.
- ILO and UNICEF jointly issued guidance for employers on flexible work arrangements.
Here are a few practical tips to consider when implementing a longer-term work-from-home policy:
Make a plan.
- Review existing resources, applicable policies, customer/client agreements to ensure work-from-home is feasible, prudent and contractually permissible.
- Review insurance policies (e.g. employee benefits, workers’ compensation, cyber,…) to ensure coverage.
- Outline and circulate employee best practices for maintaining a safe “workspace”.
- Consider an employee agreement to cover remote work (e.g. adherence to privacy/confidentiality/security policies, ensuring work time is recorded, assignment expectations,…).
- Ensure policies are applied fairly and consistently to prevent potential discrimination issues.
- Update plan as needed.
Confirm IT team & infrastructure can support remote work.
- Ensure data privacy and security (see below).
- Expand IT team as needed, including help desk capacity.
- Prepare to address systems/equipment to ensure remote work compatibility.
Ensure data privacy and security.
- The work-from-home policy must be consistent with the company’s written information security program (WISP) to ensure that business and personal information is safeguarded:
- Require two-factor authentication.
- Permit access only through VPN or similar connection.
- Ensure all employees have secure laptops/equipment.
- Ensure employees are aware of common issues that may arise (e.g. spotting phishing attacks, knowing when to report a data incident, not sending sensitive corporate data to personal email or cloud accounts, avoiding printing sensitive corporate materials,….).
Organisations should assess the impact on management, staffing and communications as certain business functions return to the worksite, while some employees (or even entire departments) continue remote work, perhaps indefinitely. Further, organisations should ensure their HR department is equipped to handle requests for flexible work arrangements as well as reasonable accommodations, which likely would have been denied prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.