Many of us were forced to quickly adapt to working remotely at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and have been making do as best we can. However, not only has it taken longer than initially expected for workplaces to reopen, both employers and employees have discovered that remote work offers benefits that make it desirable in the long term.
To make telecommuting work as seamless and effective as possible, both employers and employees may want to hone their skills, bulk up their remote working resources, and formalize remote work policies. Some major considerations are:
- IT, hardware, software, and security (including Internet access and speed)
- Home office set-up (including safety and ergonomics)
- Remote collaboration methods and meeting protocols (both for internal and external collaboration)
- Remote management and supervision
- Boundaries/expectations around the workday
- Social disconnection, changes in efficiency, video meeting burnout, and other wellness considerations
We recommend employers and employees start by conducting a home office/telework assessment to determine the needs and preferences of your workplace. Then see below for guidance for Employers and Supervisors and Employees, as well as General Resources.
Employers and Supervisors
IT, Security, and Privacy
The following resources help you ensure that employees can access a work computer and related software, their electronic files, a phone, and appropriate internet capacity all while maintaining the security and privacy required by the nature of their work:
- Telework Security Considerations – California Office of Information Security & Privacy Protection: Detailed and thorough security and privacy guidelines useful for workers throughout the US.
- Making the remote workplace work: Security tips from Vermont-based NPI TEchnology Management.
Many homes in the Upper Valley have a poor or intermittent internet connection and spotty cell phone service, as well as landlines that may not include unlimited long distance. To compensate employees for the frequent phone calls and video meetings that telecommuting may require, supervisors can consider helping employees pay for additional internet bandwidth or phone service.
Leadership and Management
Leading and managing a remote team — or a team where some employees are remote and others aren’t — requires some new skills and tools. It also requires special attention to employees’ emotional well being and to maintaining an inclusive, bias-free work environment. The following resources address these concerns:
- Managing Employees You Can’t See
- A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers
- How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation of Remote Workers
- Lead Your Employees Through the Emotional Side of Covid-19
- 4 Actions to be a Strong Leader During Covid-19 Disruption
- 10 Ways Inclusive Leaders Can Mitigate Bias When Communicating About Coronavirus
- COVID-19 Resources: Maintaining Inclusion in a Time of Chaos
- Employer Guide to Supporting Working Parents
- Working While Parenting: Something’s Gotta Give [link to blog post]
Working from home can offer workers great benefits, such as saving the time and money formerly spent on commuting. It also provides an opportunity for people with disabilities, illnesses, or dependents at home to participate fully without leaving home.
But working at home can bring some challenges. It can be hard to build time and space parameters between the workday and the rest of life; to build in, throughout the day, physical and mental breaks that might have come about more naturally in the office; to set up a comfortable and functional home workspace; and to stay connected with coworkers when you aren’t seeing them in person. These resources may help:
Compiled for Vermont state workers but useful for any Vermont workplace.
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility has many great timely resources and webinars and this one is excellent.
University of North Carolina’s Teleworking Guidance has samples of organizational telework policies, telework agreements for employees, and tech tips to maintain security.
If telework is new to you, you may want to spend some extra time considering how you will collaborate with your coworkers now that you are not sharing a physical space.
Studies Find Workers Prefer at Least Part-time Telecommuting
- “Many Vermonters interested in telecommuting after Covid-19 crisis, survey finds,” VT Digger, May 7, 2020
- “Re-Entry: Workplace experience survey highlights,” JLL, April 2020
- “COVID-19 and the Workplace: Employees Weigh In,” RobertHalf.com, April 30, 2020
- Telecommuting — Is it here to stay?, UVM Center for Research on Vermont, June 2020