If there’s one thing the outbreak of COVID-19 has done to us, it’s that a large percentage of workplaces are considering remote work. Working from home (WFH) ensures the safety of employees by physically distancing them from each other and reducing the transmissibility of COVID-19 in the workplace. With growing case numbers in Australia, you may be researching on remote work considerations. Here are some questions you might want to consider:
Am I required to allow employees to work from home during lockdown?
Depending on your state and territory, you may be required to allow employees to work from home. NSW, VIC and QLD in particular have tighter restrictions in place to reflect their active case numbers.
Rules for NSW
In NSW, the Government has announced that an employer must allow their employee to WFH if it’s “reasonably practicable to do so”. This reflects the rapidly growing case numbers in NSW and their tightening restrictions. As of 12:01AM on Wednesday, 21 July, failure to comply to these measures can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
Click here to see our comprehensive guide on COVID-19 Remote Work Considerations Guide 2021 (NSW).
Rules for VIC
Similarly in Victoria, employees must work from home if they simply ‘can’. Employers also have the responsibility to support WFH arrangements. If Authorised Workers or work for an Authorised Provider are unable to WFH, they are allowed to leave their house to go to work. However, the following safety measures must be in place:
- Workers must keep a minimum 1.5 metres distance between themselves
- Hands should be washed regularly
- Coughing and sneezing should be done into a tissue or one’s elbow
- Face masks must be worn
Rules for QLD
The restrictions are beginning to ease in Queensland. Working remotely is merely one of the four options available for employers in ensuring the safety of their workers. QLD has the option of considering
- WFH arrangements
- Flexible start and finish times
- Compressed hours
- Hybrid working arrangements (i.e. mix of time spent WFH and on-site)
Final Note on Remote Work Considerations
The nature of COVID-19 is that nobody can be certain when it will come to an end or which state will go into lockdown next. So remember, the existing measures are subject to constant change. Although NSW currently has the tightest restrictions in place amongst the rest of Australia, this is definitely not a permanent arrangement. The safest way is to regularly check your state government’s website and follow the current measures.
How do I effectively manage my employees when working remotely?
Traditionally, employers were concerned about their worker’s productivity levels when WFH. Communication can also be a challenge when workers are physically away from each other. However, there are many pros of remote work when you implement the right measures. Here are some important steps for you to consider:
Step 1) Arrange a communication channel
Arguably, communication between employees and employers is one of the most crucial requirements in a workplace. Emails may not be enough to replace the fast and effective communication that was available in office. Consider installing applications such as:
This applications will allow for seamless and fast communication even when WFH. Meetings and frequent communication should still take in place to ensure workers remain connected and up-to-date.
Step 2) Remember the Work Health and Safety obligations
Even when employees are WFH, you still owe them a duty of care. When WFH, Safe Work Australia suggests to:
- Provide guidance on what is a safe home office environment
- Allow workers to borrow necessary work equipment from the office
- Require workers to familiarise themselves first
- Maintain regular communication with workers
- Provide information and support for mental health and wellbeing services
- Appoint a contact person to communicate concerns relating to WFH
Step 3) Consider implementing a policy
Implementing a new policy to address WFH arrangements is a great way of formalising these new measures. It will ensure your employees are subject to the same conditions and reinforce essential requirements. For example, you can include requirements such as ’employee should be contactable at all times during their working hours’.
Step 4) Set performance standards
It’s true you won’t be able to monitor your staff as closely as you could on-site. However, setting performance standards and personal targets for your workers can definitely boost your employees’ motivations. You may want to consider implementing stricter measures to ensure productivity or come up with a new incentive for workers to achieve their goals.
Now work hard and stay safe everyone!