For those of you who attended the CIPD Spring Conference, you will be aware that the theme this year was the ‘future world of work’. In keeping with this theme, Lisa Kelly and I (Frances Cameron) led a discussion group about how best to manage employees in an increasingly agile and remote workforce. This topic piqued the interest of number of the delegates, for a whole range of reasons:
- managing performance when you can’t see employees
- health and safety implications
- maintaining confidentiality and protecting the business’s interests when company property and data is no longer held in a traditional office setting
This is not to ignore the huge benefits of agile and remote working; it is about managing the risks in order to reap the rewards.
What does the legislation say?
The legislation governing these issues is struggling to keep up with our constantly connected, technologically advanced world of work. For instance, the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) came into force at a time when most organisations had a traditional office-based 9 – 5 working pattern. This is before the first Blackberry (1999) and the first iPhone (2007) and, therefore, most employees truly did ‘switch off’ when they left the office. In light of this lawyers struggle to interpret the WTR in a world where work and home boundaries are blurred, and it is increasingly difficult to determine what is ‘working time’.
This is just one example of the numerous pieces of legislation being left behind, and with Brexit on the horizon, it is unlikely the government will have the time and resources required to address this any time soon.
So this begs the question: what can businesses do about this now?
1. Employment contracts
Firstly, we would recommend starting by looking at your employment contracts and staff policies to ensure that they adequately address agile working. For instance, it would be worth including a right to require agile workers to be present, or at least to dial in, for certain key meetings (e.g. weekly team meetings).
We suggest developing a more regular feedback process with line managers, rather than just an annual appraisal. Also, home workers should be invited to regular social events and kept in the loop about office based meetings and activities that they might like to attend.
3. Risk assessment
Include a right to enter their work space to carry out risk assessments, as well as ensuring that data is kept in an appropriate and confidential manner. This right could also enable the employer to remove company property on termination of employment.
4. Key performance indicators
Revisiting individual objectives and making sure that they are measurable for a remote employee is an important consideration to support agile working. Key performance indicators need to be smart enough to manage performance from afar. In addition, there may be software available to enable the employee to record their daily activities (in a similar way to lawyers) and to enable real-time conversations to be carried out so that working relations and supervision does not suffer.