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Managing a Dispersed Workforce

By Marilyn Heward-Mills, Conexus Law

June 3 2020 - During this prolonged period of lock down many companies are having to manage a dispersed workforce for the first time, including many individuals who have never worked from home. It is perhaps no surprise then that the Office for National Statistics has found that Britain's biggest industries are facing a productivity crisis as the UK's workforce grapples with working from home. Almost half of employees (45.8%) are confined to the kitchen table, up from around one in 20 who routinely worked this way before the pandemic. It means as many as 14m workers - and their employers - have to find ways to keep going in circumstances that previously appeared difficult to some and impossible to others.

One of the key questions facing employers at this time is how should the task of reviewing, revising or adopting home working policies to ensure clear expectations and procedures be approached? More than ever, employers should operate with flexibility, particularly with those who are not used to working from home. It should go without saying that meaningful, open and regular communication will help to keep the workforce feeling supported, engaged and motivated in operations.

Employers are also now having to consider when and where the company has to bear the costs related to work from home environments, and whether employees may be entitled to claim a deduction against taxable income for certain household expenses. It is clear that meaningful communication and contact with staff to safeguard their psychological and emotional wellbeing, including where possible by video, impacts morale and engagement. However, knowing the legal facts and best practice is also crucial to protect the company, staff and any customers or clients during the pandemic.

Getting the Facts Right

With some work environments now beginning to see increased footfall as businesses navigate the first steps out of lockdown, specialist advisory firm Conexus Law has published practical factsheets for employers which highlight factors to consider during this unprecedented time in which remote working looks set to continue for a substantial portion of the workforce. The guidelines include reviewing home working policies and the health and safety obligations of employers. The factsheet reminds companies of the importance of ensuring that all other policies including data protection, privacy, confidentiality, IT and grievance and disciplinary policies, are amended if necessary, and clearly communicated to all employees.

It is more important than ever to clearly communicate what is expected from teams throughout the company. Some individuals will have conflicting demands on their time and space. Others might find it difficult to be motivated or to perform to their usual standards or the employer's expectations. Open and regular communication lines should make it easier to manage workflow and output, to address issues as they arise, and ensure that the business is able to continue to operate at a suitable level. Even though staff may now be operating from dispersed locations, managers will also still to want to monitor performance, conduct appraisals and ensure productivity.

Specialists at Conexus have also emphasised the importance of communicating the maximum weekly working hours to their staff and highlight employers' responsibilities to regulate working time and breaks, ensuring staff observe and respect their own and their colleagues' boundaries around the working day. It is also vital that employers are mindful of their obligation to make reasonable adjustments for employees who are disabled, pregnant, parents etc, which might include being flexible with how and when those individuals perform their duties as well as regarding the equipment required to do so.

Providing confidential forums or mechanisms for staff to raise personal concerns, including health and safety, financial pressures, or health, stress, emotional or psychological concerns, is paramount during such an unchartered working landscape. Sharing with employees the correct information regarding who to contact if they are struggling with any issues around home working, including motivation and productivity, is also hugely beneficial for the workforce. Given the 'tunnel-vision' that can easily affect companies up against these new pressures, it can often be helpful to lean on external expertise.

How can Conexus Law help?

Businesses and individuals will need legal advice to help them understand the risks they may face and the options that may be open to them. Conexus is available to assist in reviewing the laws in many jurisdictions across the world, and to review specific contracts. The Conexus specialists are also available to provide practical, business-orientated advice on how to best protect yourself from the ongoing commercial effects of Covid-19.

To access the free factsheet, visit: https://www.conexuslaw.com/post/fact-sheet-managing-a-dispersed-workforce

For more information on Conexus Law, please visit www.conexuslaw.com.


 


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