More and more companies are implementing a telecommuting policy. This trend is becoming more prevalent in the insurance industry. One reason is because baby boomers are retiring and exiting the workforce at a rapid pace leaving the younger generation to take the reigns. Additionally, there is a cost benefit to offering this option. It’s more affordable than traditional considerations and offers employees the opportunity to have a good work/life balance. Employers must have a solid plan in place for managing remote employees where both parties have a clear understanding of expectations, including at-home work-related injuries.
Determining if an at-home injury is compensable hinges, in large part, upon a clear cut determination of whether the employee was furthering their employer’s interest at the time of injury or if they were performing a normal activity of life. This can be a fine distinction, so it is important to thoroughly investigate each individual loss to ensure your compensability determination is well thought-out. There are many examples that warrant consideration beyond simply the facts of the loss, including the law in the applicable jurisdiction. Outlined below are some important considerations for employers.
Clear Expectations Must Be Set Upfront
- Obtain a signed remote work agreement that outlines expectations
- Review the employee’s key result areas and discuss expectations
- Ensure that employees have a safe area to work in and are away from other distractions
- Being a remote worker requires a self-starter attitude as well as the ability to manage flexible work hours
Ongoing Effective Communication
- Regular check-ins with remote employees is important to prevent employee abandonment
- Multiple methods of communication can be used, including:
- Regular scheduled or unscheduled phone calls
- Text and instant messaging
- Regular team meetings – reminds the remote worker that they are working with a group that supports them
- Use of video conferencing for meetings and quick calls
- In-person meetings at central locations – to review projects, provide company updates and/or discuss procedural changes. These meetings promote better interaction amongst co-workers and offer insight into the right points of contact for assistance on projects.
- Weekly roundtable meetings
Training, Education and System Availability
Today’s work environment, no matter the working style, relies heavily on computers and electronic communication.
- Claims training – important to ensure that remote employees take this training
- Proper training of equipment and systems is essential to success
- Backup systems should be in place for storing documents and technical assistance available for computer and/or software issues
- Access to cloud storage is important
- To address IT issues, an organization’s help desk should be available during working hours
- A reliable VPN or similar network is critical to maintain a secure connection
Understanding Remote Workers’ Perspectives
Leaders of remote workers must attempt to understand the point of view of their employees.
- What does your organization look like to someone working remotely and how do they feel about the organization overall?
- Do they feel motivated to complete projects?
- Do they feel that they are part of a larger group and are contributing to the process?
Keeping Remote Employees Connected and Engaged
Even though an employee is working remotely, they still need to feel connected to the broader team and the company. Making connections with their fellow employees and building solid working relationships is critically important.
As you see, there are many considerations employers need to take into account when managing their telecommuting policy and remote employees. Taking the measures outlined here will help employers effectively manage their telecommuting program and encourage growth and flexibility within their organization. For more information, contact your PMA Risk Control Consultant.