The rise of remote work has many employers considering the adoption of flexible work models in order to capitalize on the proven benefits of workplace flexibility, such as employee retention and increased productivity. However, no amount of evangelism and media hype can create an “easy button” for rolling out a new corporate policy, so many professionals’ dreams of commute-less careers are being crushed by their human resource departments who claim that remote work is illegal.
Well, no, remote work is not illegal. However, many employers are currently employing offsite workers illegally. What’s the difference? Change management.
Remote work is convenient, but is it compliant? Common offsite working conditions can put companies … [+]
The process of going remote may seem as simple as sending an employee home with a laptop, but sustainable change management requires more preparation in order to minimize risk, prevent informational isolation, and ensure sustainability. At the top of the list is compliance.
In a recent article, international compliance specialist, Boundless HQ, revealed several points of risk that distributed companies often neglect when transitioning to virtual infrastructures. If you’re new to remote work, chances are, you haven’t thought of most of them, which is a liability for yourself and your business.
So, of you want to legally liberate your team, here are 10 steps that you need to consider before impulsively abandoning the office:
Step 1: Correctly Classify Your Workers
To escape the legal responsibility of compliance, many small and mid-size businesses are capitalizing on the gig economy to hire long-term workers as independent contractors. This can be a wise and strategic scaling solution, until ethics and compliance are questioned by the fair treatment of contractors versus employees. This issue was brought to international attention when Google recently changed its benefits for freelancers and California updated its independent contractors laws. More governments are sure to follow suit soon, so to prevent future liability, correctly classify your workers and create a benefits package to match their contributions.
Step 2: Accommodate Industry Regulations
For certain industries, licenses, permits, and regulations are enforced to maintain compliance standards, such as office design codes to maintain HIPAA Privacy or LPC credentials for therapists. It’s fairly simple to manage qualifications with a centralized team, but having employees in a variety of states and/or work environments can void your certification unless all team members can prove local qualification.
Step 3: Calculate Fair Salaries
As you may imagine, calculating how to pay two equal employees based on local costs of living, tax requirements, employment laws, and more can get extremely confusing. Virtual job board, FlexJobs, has shared some various ways in which employers are tackling this issue, but the current status is that there still isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Therefore, you’ll need to collaborate with your Human Resources department, and maybe a remote work consultant, to identify the best strategy for your organization.
Step 4: Research Local Employment Laws
Each region has varying laws for family leave, termination, civil rights, and medical accommodations. With a distributed team, this may mean that one employee is entitled to certain protections while another is not. Tracking who gets what can be quite a headache, so new companies like Boundless HQ, Remote, Shield GEO, and Deel are emerging to specifically address this issue for remote-friendly companies.
Step 5: Build Safe Offsite Workspaces
Most office workers don’t realize or appreciate that thousands of hours and millions of dollars are invested into making their office as safe and ergonomic as possible. From the height of a desk, to the temperature of the room, to the wattage of lightbulbs, to the location of electrical outlets, workplaces are meticulously designed and inspected to prevent health risk for the professionals inside, for both the short-term and the long-term. So, when most workers start working from home or a coworking space, all of those regulations are unknowingly neglected. To resolve, remote workers should be trained on the basics of how to set up an ergonomic office, local work and zoning permits should be researched, and if the company wil be providing workers compensation, routine OSHA inspections will need to be performed.
Step 6: Create Career Development Plans
Often, remote workers fall victim to “out of sight, out of mind” discrimination, which means that their more visible in-office counterparts have more accessibility to promotions, assignments, and feedback. To prevent career stagnancy, ensure that every manager of a virtual worker understands how to fairly track performance without physical supervision, and equitably manage team members regardless of location. (Courses from SHRM-approved learning and development providers that specialize in remote work, like Workplaceless, can help.)
Step 7: Consult with your Accountant
Traditional tax structures are built on geographic infrastructures, so businesses are financially obligated to the regions in which their office and employees are located. But for distributed and nomadic teams, that can include several dozen regions! From foreign qualification to nexus, there are hidden costs and responsibilities that could put your company in danger if ignored. Be sure to meet with your CFO or a remote-friendly tax consultant like Summit CPA to ensure compliance with each region that your team works from.
Step 8: Provide Information Security Training
With flexible workplaces come personal devices, crowded workspaces, public wifi connections, and other risks for potential data breaches. It’s critical for flexible employers to train and maintain good information security habits with their virtual workforce. Additionally, software solutions like Workspace ONE and ThinScale can help secure your virtual workplace and mitigate risk for your company’s sensitive data.
Step 9: Update Employment Contract
Employment contracts usually contain very specific language about performance under specific working conditions in the office… but what about performance when the employee is outside of the office? If the contract isn’t updated to reflect the changes in the worker’s location, scope of responsibilities, and compliance obligations, it may be void if reviewed in court. Protect your company and your workers by asking HR to quickly review existing contract templates to identify sections that may be impacted by flexibility.
Step 10: Write a Remote Work Policy
To wrap up all your learnings and ensure that both managers and workers equally agree to enforce the terms of compliance, supplement every single remote worker’s employment contract with a remote work policy. This document is critical in preventing miscommunication about offsite performance and virtual expectations. If you haven’t written a policy before, remote work consulting firm, Distribute Consulting, provides this handy checklist to get you started so you don’t miss important sections.