Covid-19 is here to stay but are companies taking care of business?

 

Call it telework, remote work or working from the home office. Corporations are letting their employees work from home as a safety and production risk management measure. The reasoning goes something like this:

“Due to COVID-19 we are reducing the risk of spreading the virus by letting you, the employee, take your computer and work from home. You’re welcome.”

This knee-jerk reactive solution might be OK to a short term problem. But as weeks turns to months and the pandemic situation is getting worse, not better, there needs to be a clear understanding of what is at risk and who is responsible. 


Let’s not beat around the bush:  

 

Employers a.k.a corporations are 100% liable for everything related to the workplace.

From ergonomics to clean bathrooms, infrastructure (phone/internet) to regular breaks. From clear expectation to productive ways of working. It’s all responsibilities that falls on the employer. The productivity and longevity of the producers (employees) are in the best interest of the corporation. Nobody questions why there’s dedicated staff for cleaning, maintenance, IT support at the office. But what about the home office?

Questions that employees should be asking themselves:

“Am I providing my own office/workstation/desk/setup at work?”
switch into
“Am I providing my own office/workstation/desk/setup at work-from-home?”

 

 

Equipment, materials, tools. Who is cleaning? Who is restocking everything from coffee to toilet paper? Who does the maintenance? Who is making sure that internet is working? Who is paying for internet? Anything you get “included” at the office is something you don’t have to worry about while working from the office. But how does employers take action on this in work-from-home situations?

Is it really OK to ask every employee to have their own self funded office on demand at home? No, of course not. If we flip to the alternative, is it an OK alternative to risk catching a deadly virus if you can’t provide an office from home? Again, of course not.

 

Understand your employees

When all benefits of the physical workplace is removed — and everything else is said and done, employees come to work to do the job that gets them paid. The requirements for “doing the work that gets them paid” has changed drastically.

When the honeymoon phase of eating the forbidden fruit of working from home wears off, what is left is a much larger burden on the employee.

 

Long term effects of reactive remote work 

Are employees expected to run mini-offices all on their own just so they can do the work they were hired to do? Is it reasonable that the employees pay the cost of building a nice and productive office space for their employer? No, no and no. The responsibility to build and maintain a productive work environment is, and always has been, on the employer. The bottom line is that a reactive attitude towards the remote workplace quality, productivity and wellbeing suffers.

 

The employer is to provide for everything related to the workplace, remote or not.

Let’s be crystal clear. The employee does the work they are hired to do. The rest is to be provided by the employer. Internet. All devices. Every piece of material. All digital services needed for the employee to be productive. Ground control a.k.a cleaning, restocking, maintenance. All part of the buffet of responsibilities for the employer.

This realisation needs to hit home twice, from the employee perspective and then at the employer perspective.

The added complexity of a remote workforce can not be ignored or put on individuals to sort out.

There is a lot of things that go in to providing a good working environment. Organisations struggle to get it right with the much smaller scope of a regular office space, and now the reality is that we need a scalable micro-office setup for the majority of our employees. 

 

Damned if you do, doomed if you don’t

Exposing the entire workforce to working-from-home-practices will invite the realisation that this is a possible way of working. Not only for the current employer, but anyone willing to pay. Employees can just start shopping around for the same (remote) job in a better paying part of the world.

On the one side, if it’s terrible to work-from-home in your organisation people will want to leave. And if it’s nice, they will realise that they can do this for any organisation from the comfort of their home office.

 No end in sight of the mountain of salt that Covid-19 is pouring into the watering   eyes of employers.

 

So how do we turn this around?

Organisations that wants to thrive in the landscape of tomorrow will invest heavily in key areas. Let’s divide it up into Baseline, Okey and Impressive. Like a pyramid, you can only reach the top if you have the step below.

Baseline

The physical wellbeing of employees. Make sure your workforce have what they need in the form of the physical home office. Reduce stress and let them focus on the tasks they were hired to perform.

The Work Space

  • Quiet space
  • Good lighting
  • A door / ability to focus / shut out distractions
  • Comfortable chair
  • Adjustable desk

Equipment (example)

  • Right amount of computer monitors
  • Audio + Video equipment they can use
  • Mouse and keyboard
  • Strong and reliable internet connection
  • Remote tools, applications and services that works
  • Phone

Maintenance (example)

  • Cleaning
  • Restock materials
  • Snacks
  • Coffee / water

 

Okey

You show that you actually try to turn this situation into something positive for the company and the employees.

Way of work

  • New and clear expectations that reduce guilt load and promote working less rather than more. The unexpected overtime and added stress that most employees experience working from home is real, and needs to be tackled proactively and clearly by the employer.
  • Clear digital places to collaborate, co-create and be productive together remotely
  • Concrete reductions of time expected to do standard work if anything from maintenance is not provided by employer

Benefits

  • New and improved benefits that reflects the new needs from the organisation
  • Add bonuses, treats, time off, celebrating wins together remotely

 

Impressive

Be proactive and you stand a chance to come out as a winner employer (corporation) that employees and customers love.

Change everything (Disrupt & Reimagine)

  • Communicate clearly that you see the new world as an opportunity and that positive changes are coming.
  • Start working with a vision based in the new reality — remote working is here to stay and it changes every aspect of business.
  • Let the vision be the spark that ignites a new way of working, a new offering, a new reason for the corporation to exist.
  • Become a Relearning organisation set out to do great things with the people that matter the most to you, the customers and employees.

 

Responsibility and opportunity

The realization that you have the responsibility for thousands of micro-offices instead of just a handful macro-offices can be daunting. Providing the best employee experience was hard pre-covid. But look at it from the opportunity side, can your business provide something to this new world order? If you realize the shift today, the huge market for services related to millions of new micro-offices popping up everywhere might be a new blue ocean for your products and services? Understand what you need to do and take advantage of being early adopter. 

You can’t afford is to play it by ear and hope that your employees will keep performing while dragging their laptops back and forth, packing up, packing down. Take it serious because your corporation’s existence depends on how you proactively tackle this challenge. 

Unfinished notes related to the topic

Laggards who thinks that employees should just deal with it
If you want your workforce to provide the tools, methods and spaces for working — your best bet is to start looking for consultants. The price of a consultant is high not only in money, but also in turnover if your not the best in class that furthers the consultants career. Consultants are representatives of other corporations. They will either bill more or leave if you’re not providing for their needs.

Societal shift in the long term
This goes much wider than “the employer is to provide for everything related to the workplace, remote or not”. It questions many laws on deductions, benefits and classifications. Insurance? Who is responsible if corporate goods get targeted in a home? Compliance? Secure IT? Parental leave, sick leave, — where should this take place when home is someone else’s office? This pandemic opens up a whole can of worms that needs to be addressed.

TL:DR
Employers need to take responsibility for all workplaces their employees are expected to work from. This require a holistic approach and thinking outside the box.

Whats your thoughts on the subject? Obviously this is a huge topic and there’s volumes of things missing from this piece. Think of it as a conversation starter. Let me know what you think!

More reading – related content:

 

US legal consideration

European telework

Legal implications of remote working

Is remote work legal?

The Psychological Impact of Teleworking: Stress, Emotions and Health