Allowing employees to work from anywhere can be desirable, but it’s not easy for companies to deliver, argues Sami Bouremoum, CEO of remote workplace management firm Hofy.
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught businesses one thing, it’s that the days of working 9-to-5 in the same office, five days a week, are over. Increasingly, employees are demanding the ability to work from anywhere (WFA), and businesses need to adapt quickly if they are to attract the best talent and, therefore, drive profits.
A one-size-fits-all approach to hiring no longer works. Expectations are evolving quickly – even a hybrid office/home working arrangement, which may have been appropriate a year ago, may no longer be sufficient to get the best people on board.
Work from anywhere
Instead, what many are now demanding is the ability to work from anywhere – whether that’s in the office, at home or from a remote location. No wonder that 800,000 job seekers visited Airbnb’s career page after CEO Brian Chesky announced in April a policy to enable employees to live and work anywhere.
“We want to hire and retain the best people in the world (like you). If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage,” writes Chesky. “The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area. And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company,” he adds.
Airbnb also reports that 1 in 5 people are currently staying in its properties for a month or more, indicating that people are choosing to work as well as holiday while they are away from their home.
However, facilitating working from anywhere for your teams is much more than approving relocation or travel requests. Here, we look at 5 factors you need to consider when implementing WFA policies.
#1. Set clear expectations about what “anywhere” means
‘Anywhere’ implies that your staff can work from wherever they choose, whether that’s at home, in a coffee shop or even on the beach. Understandably, employees will reasonably assume they can change their location as often as like and on their own terms, without having to consult you. This can be problematic on a number of fronts, not least because it can limit productivity and create unnecessary security risks if devices are left unattended or workers access unsecured wifi networks.
Employment law relating to remote work also mandates that remote workers must have a fixed place of work to ensure that their employer cannot wriggle out of their health and safety and tax compliance duties.
Employees can work in another country temporarily, but if they exceed the maximum number of working days specified by the local tax authorities, they may be deemed to be a permanent employee in that country. If that is the case, there are payroll and tax implications for the employee and the business, and corporation tax implications for the business.
It’s therefore important to set clear expectations about what “anywhere” means in practice – e.g. where employees can go, and for how long for.
#2. Provide the right home working equipment
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, regardless of whether they are home or office-based, to provide a safe working environment.
Ergonomic equipment is designed to allow employees to work from hours on end without experiencing musculoskeletal discomfort, so it’s a good idea to provide ergonomic equipment to team members to ensure their safety.
If you have implemented a work from anywhere policy which allows your teams to relocate, you will need to check local health and safety requirements to ensure this equipment meets minimum adjustability and feature standards.
For example, under EU regulations, office chairs must be height-adjustable, backrests must be height- and tilt-adjustable and keyboards must tilt.
#3. Ensure you meet all local requirements for maintaining home working equipment
Supplying equipment is only the first step in providing a safe working environment; you also need to look after this equipment. Faulty furniture is shown to increase the risk of musculoskeletal injury, which accounted for 28% of all work-related illnesses in the UK last year.
Many countries indicate in employment law relating to remote work how you should facilitate equipment maintenance. You may be responsible for maintaining the equipment, or reimbursing any upkeep etc. So if you introduce a WFA policy that permits employees to relocate, it’s essential that you check, and comply with, local H&S standards for maintenance.
#4. Provide 24 hour IT support
Minimising IT downtime is crucial for maintaining productivity and providing a good employee experience. According to one survey of US workers by Robert Half Technology, professionals waste 22 minutes each day, on average, dealing with IT-related issues. For someone who works five eight-hour days for 50 weeks of the year, that translates into a loss of more than 91 hours per year.
When your team members work remotely and cannot visit the IT department across the office whenever they like, resolving IT issues can be challenging, especially if they are spread across different time zones.
For that reason, it is essential to source or provide 24 hour IT support, so that you can assist employees no matter where they travel or relocate to as you scale.
#5. Find scalable ways of retrieving equipment from anywhere
If you provide your dispersed team members with company-owned equipment, you’ll need to find a way to get that equipment back to your HQ. Organising this in-house can be a costly, time-intensive, and high-risk operation, if you undertake figuring out each region as you go. It is therefore advisable to work with an equipment collections provider that has proven capabilities of retrieving equipment worldwide.
When it comes to retrieving laptops, you’ll need to factor in meeting your InfoSec requirements. As well as physically retrieving all IT equipment, you’ll need to wipe sensitive data. Many device management providers will allow you to remotely wipe device data, enabling you to easily meet this aspect of your requirements even if your team members have relocated.
Increasingly, talented employees are looking for employers who offer maximum flexibility, particularly the ability to work from anywhere. However, providing this flexibility isn’t straightforward. It requires putting the right WFA policies in place, complying with local health and safety regulations and onboarding employees smoothly.
Firms need to have the logistics to send out IT equipment and office furniture to remote locations, and get it back when an individual leaves. While very large companies may have the infrastructure to deal with this, smaller companies are almost certainly better off turning to a third-party provider who can provide a reliable and scalable remote workplace management solution.
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