2020 – A Year of Change and Working From Home.

For many New Zealander’s, the line between personal life and work life became blurred at times during 2020. Given that COVID-19 is here to stay for some time, this employment issue is going to be on-going for some time and should therefore be addressed front on by employers and employees.

One of the consequences of COVID-19 and New Zealand’s Alert Level system is that now, more than ever, much of New Zealand’s workforce has become mobilised to be able to work from home. This has created interesting, and in some cases serious implications including:

  • Many workforces finding that employees can be productive and efficient while working from home.
  • Working from home works in a high trust model, where employees are engaged and there is a high level of communication and commitment between the parties. Where trust breaks down, or where an employee is disengaged from the workplace, working from home arrangements can be fraught.
  • Many workers finding benefits in working from home in relation to a slower pace, no travel time, as well as having more time and space to focus.
  • Numerous workplaces finding that culture, energy and vibrancy suffers when the team is not collectively in the same place. Relationships are harder to maintain and build upon, and the creative, spontaneous energy that comes from having people on the same team, heading in the same direction, in the same space is negatively impacted.
  • Employers have onerous health and safety obligations, as set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. These obligations reach into the employee’s home, if the employee is working from home.

 

Further issues to consider when employees are working from home include:

  • Working from home policies – it is fundamental that if you are having employees work from home that the business puts in place a working from home policy to ensure the employer is meeting health and safety requirements. Further, working from home can be a tricky subject, so it is important that the employer sets its expectations around what is, and what is not, acceptable for that particular business when it comes to working from home. Working from home arrangements can be easy to set up, but if there are no policies in place which sets expectations and requirements, then they can be difficult to dismantle.
  • Security of business information – when people work from home, employers need to address any security risks to personal information (including client/customer information). This is something that the working from home policy needs to address.
  • Communication and time management – How does communication happen? Are there regular zoom meetings set up? How is productivity monitored? Are there timesheets or progress reports on projects? This is another aspect of working from home that the employer has to set clear expectations around in regards to what is, and what is not, acceptable for that particular business.

 

If you are one of the many New Zealand businesses that is navigating the new normal of having your employees working from home, then having a robust working from home policy is extremely important. If you’d like further information or strategic advice on implementation then please contact a member of our employment team or call 09 883 4420.

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