Remote working and its impact on the workplace

by Jon Taylor

6 April 2023

In recent years, there has been a growing move towards remote working, accelerated by the pandemic. This has been made possible through the use of communications platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Undoubtedly, remote working offers many benefits for employers and employees alike, including the ability to conduct interactive training sessions and facilitating cross-border collaboration.

However, employers will need to carefully consider the application of existing employment legislation to ensure it takes account of issues which may arise from remote working.

Some points which employers will need to consider:

Virtual misconduct and harassment

There is growing evidence that users’ inhibitions and standards of behaviour are lower in the virtual world. Therefore, employers will need to be wary of cases of misconduct and harassment which could take place on virtual platforms.

Home/hybrid working

The move towards home working (exclusively working from home) and hybrid working (mixture of working ‘on-site’ and home working) has become increasingly popular since the pandemic due to its practicality and benefits.

However, these new modes of working mean that employers will need to review their existing policies to ensure they are fit for purpose. The following areas will need to be given careful consideration:

  • Measures to protect confidential information and personal data- employees often work in open spaces at home where sensitive data and information can be heard/seen by other members of the household
  • Requirement for personal equipment to facilitate working from home- e.g. headphones (will the costs of these be covered by the employer, and if so will a list of specific items which will be covered need to be drawn up)
  • Tax consequences- this is relevant for employees who work from abroad for any period of time as consideration will need to be given to the governing jurisdiction when it comes to tax liability
  • Balance between the two- employers must ensure that they are transparent with their employees regarding any expectations relating to hybrid working i.e. is there a requirement to be at the office for a minimum number of days a week?

Employee Wellbeing

The move to home working has raised concerns about employee wellbeing. A poll carried out by Hays found that 52% of employees were working longer hours when working remotely prior to the pandemic. Of the 52%, 25% reported working more than 10 extra hours a week and 41% putting in between 5 and 10 hours a week.

These statistics reflect the fact that when working from home, employees often struggle to “switch off” and are more likely to continue responding to emails or taking calls well after their contracted working hours.

A possible solution is to schedule in regular check-ins with employees and out of office activities such as a weekly games night. These measures will encourage employee wellbeing to be taken seriously and reduce the chance of workers becoming burnt out.

Health and safety

With the use of equipment such as headsets or other wearable technology, employers may need to re-draft their health and safety policies to account for minimum standards of safety such as maximum use times and the requirement for regular breaks.

This article was prepared by Noemi Stepan-Sarkissian.
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