Until Covid-19, it was the case that people felt that work had to happen in a particular location. However, now that almost everyone is working remotely during this pandemic, it’s become very clear that work isn’t somewhere you go to, it’s something you do. We have recognised that work can happen in many different places, not just the traditional office or organisation.
The rapid adaptation to remote working has been a very steep learning curve. This learning curve offers opportunities to initiate change in your organisation and look at how remote working can become part of the norm, not just the exception for times of emergency or for the few who may need it.
Below you will find some information on how your company can learn from this situation and develop remote-working policies in the future.
Benefits of Remote Working for Diversity & Inclusion
A large portion of the workforce under ‘normal’ circumstances have very long commutes to and from work every day. If flexible or remote working policies were in place, employees will have a better work-life balance in terms of less commute times.
Being able to work from home increases inclusion and diversity of your workforce, as people who may not have been able to work before for a variety of reasons, disability or otherwise may now be able to engage in remote work. For example, parents who may not have childcare after school could be able to work from home these days or even part of the day.
Remote working can be particularly beneficial for people with certain disabilities. This may enable people with significant health issues to work from home occasionally and mean that they are a lot more engaged in the work that they do with less absenteeism.
Remote working will make for a more agile and flexible and diverse workforce!
Click on each heading below to find out more about each tip!
Develop remote working policies and guidelines
- Make it part of your organisation that remote working is available for everyone, not just for particular cohorts; this can be quite exclusionary and cause issues for your company down the line.
- If you make your remote working policy one that is inclusive of all of the workforce, whereby you can dip in and out of remote working for periods of time, it becomes very commonplace and the workforce will get used to it. Organisations and teams will become accustomed and adapt to the fact that a particular employee(s) only comes in on Tuesday or Wednesday, but you can still have a Zoom or Teams meeting on a Friday with them.
- Setting clear guidelines for remote working is of the utmost importance, to do so you must consider the ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, and ‘how’ work can be done. We have now realised that a lot of work can be done from home; you need to consider and set concrete guidelines as to how that is going to operate is really important.
Manage expectations of productivity
- For managers and staff alike, managing and being realistic about productivity is key.
- This is also something that can be clearly outlined in your remote working guidelines: how things will operate if you are working remotely.
Equal access to required equipment
Making sure that everyone has equal access to technology etc. is vital in ensuring that your employees can participate and engage in their work as fully as they would if they were based in a work environment outside of their own home.
- Address your employees access to technology, hardware and software, and also the employee’s home internet access.
- Address the work environment of employees working remotely and how to support them in setting that up so that they can work optimally. Make sure to assess if there’s anything that you as an organisation can and should to in this respect. The responsibility of the employer is still very relevant, whether your employees are working from home or in an office.
- It’s also important to be mindful of whether employees with disabilities will need additional supports when working from home. For example, while maybe it is your company’s policy not to provide employees with chairs or desk, for an employee who requires a particular type of work set-up due to their disability, it would be the responsibility of the employer to provide this, both on site and at home. Remember, there are grants available for private employers from the DEASP, namely the Workplace Equipment Adaptation Grant. You can read more on this here.
Audit and seek feedback!
- We have all had to work from home for several months now. Gather information from your staff about their experiences and what and how it can be improved. Their voice and participation is crucial!
- Assess and identify the technology, skills, and cultural supports required for remote working.
- Review this on an ongoing basis.
Building a remote working community
- Sometimes people can feel disconnected and excluded from their workmates when they’re working remotely. It’s very important that when working from home, connections with all the workforce are maintained. All employees need to feel that they are part of the workforce regardless of when they are physically in the office.
- Managers should be cognisant to be proactive to facilitate team communication: don’t assume somebody else will do it automatically, make sure to specifically assign that task.
- Communicate, Connect, Care. Communication and building that sense of connection is even more important when an employee is working remotely because they’re not physically around people in the office. Someone working from home should be made feel that they are still part of the organisation, whether or not they are on site.
- Continue to treat everyone with respect, both in their presence and in their absence. Sometimes when people aren’t physically present, there is the potential for them to feel like their input isn’t being respected.
- Have virtual social get-togethers with colleagues through tea/coffee mornings, for example to build that sense of community amongst your organisation/team.
- Ensure that an open-door policy is still maintained to discuss issues arising, regardless of where people/employment is located
WAMinar: The Future Workplace Post Covid19 – Remote Working
If you would like to learn more about remote working and what this means for people with disabilities who require remote working as an accommodation, you can watch the presentation on this subject by Dr Patricia McCarthy, Disability Rights Activist.