May 14, 2021

Navigating Remote Working from a Small Business (and HR) Perspective

by Sharon DeLay, GO-HR

As a country, we’re moving from the “new normal” to just “normal,” but we’re still solidly in our learning curve when it comes to remote working. With more businesses exchanging commercial office space for remote working, it should be an easy transition for the rest of us, right?

The concept of working from home is good in theory, but it can be fraught with some hard-hitting realities that every business needs to consider. An April 2021 article by Findstack shared some surprising statistics, including that 16 percent of the world’s companies are fully-remote, with healthcare, technology and financial services leading the way. In the next seven years, nearly three-quarters of workplace teams will work some portion remotely, and 99 percent of one survey’s respondents noted that they would choose to work remotely for the rest of their work lives, even if only part-time.

With unemployment rates returning to pre-COVID levels, being competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees is a priority for every employer. Here are the conversations you need to have with these businesses – your clients.

  • Not every job or every person is suited for remote working. These are tough decisions to make and even tougher conversations to navigate. Every business owner is concerned about balancing profitable, equitable and legal. It may seem simple to an attorney, but we stay up at night looking at every angle and taking a trip down every rabbit hole.

  • A December 2020 Pew study found remote working favors those who are more highly-educated and who have higher incomes. As businesses consider a remote model, they need to think about the challenges their employees may face when forced to work from home, including distractions by multi-generation households, poor technology and technology infrastructure, and lack of access to a home office or private workspace. While nothing requires employers to outfit their employees to work from home, failure to do so may create an adverse impact on some of their workforce.

  • We really don’t know how to be remote workers and we don’t know how to manage remote teams. Until March 2020, most of us showed up at a brick-and-mortar place and had a defined structure and a fairly consistent rhythm to our day. It may be necessary to retrain both employees and managers and revise workplace policies to support consistent practices.

  • More than ever, security of data and access are paramount. Businesses are even more vulnerable when they have less control over hardware, software and Internet access. As a remote workforce grows, so grows liability in these areas.

  • Working from anywhere, or what I call House Hunters International syndrome, is a myth. Employers need to be diligent on where employees are working to ensure they’re withholding appropriate taxes, paying into the right state’s unemployment insurance, and adequately insured for worker’s compensation. Remote working does not eliminate these; it only makes it more complex to comply.
Remote working is not just packing up the laptop and heading home. The past 15 months is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

 


Delay
In the next seven years, nearly three-quarters of workplace teams will work some portion remotely, and 99 percent of one survey’s respondents noted that they would choose to work remotely for the rest of their work lives, even if only part-time.