During the inaugural Compliance and Coffee session, GovDocs brought together several leaders in HR and compliance to discuss the New Face of Remote Work.
The informal virtual discussion, held April 21, touched on several topics large employers face as the pandemic has changed the way companies approach remote work:
- How are you managing remote work today and how will your company handle it going forward?
- What are your primary compliance concerns with remote work and how are you handling them?
- What has worked this past year and what challenges are there with remote work?
- How do employers maintain company culture in a remote environment?
Below are a few of the main takeaways from Compliance and Coffee, facilitated by Jana Bjorklund, GovDocs’ Senior Counsel and Director, Employment Law Compliance.
Managing Current Remote Work and Plans for Post-Pandemic Remote Work
Most employers have been surprised at the success they have had with remote work during the pandemic. Employees remain productive working remotely and enjoy the flexibility they have while doing so.
There is an indication that employees will be looking for this flexibility to continue after the pandemic ends. Only a small number of workers have abused the privilege. Most of the attendees said their companies will offer some type of remote work going forward but have not determined a final remote work plan or policy.
For the Compliance and Coffee attendees whose companies had thought about future remote work, there was a general consensus that a hybrid remote model would be preferred — employees work from the office a few days a week and from home the rest of the week.
Whether employees could work remotely would be determined by an assessment of their specific position and whether it is conducive to working remotely for part of the week or even permanently. One attendee from a global company indicated they have created a hybrid remote work model that they will be piloting in the U.S first to determine the effectiveness and employee response. Once that model has been evaluated and vetted, they will assess the plan for rolling remote work model out to their locations in Europe and China.
Compliance Concerns with Remote Work
The discussion of compliance and remote work then turned to the complexities of having employees working in many different jurisdictions.
Although most of the attendees agreed their remote work during the pandemic was successful, that success stems from trust and communication. Setting expectations and even over-communicating have helped, they said.
One HR pro said their company early on issued guidelines for best practices for working from home which included maintaining worker well-being, ensuring employees are taking breaks as needed and not locked to their desk, conducting many meeting via video as possible, etc.
That said, everyone agreed the decision on continued remote work requires careful planning and deliberation in order to maintain compliance with employment laws.
Among the issues that arise with this situation include:
- How to structure pay and benefits
- Difficulty with handling I-9 forms
- What to do with local taxes, unemployment insurance and withholdings
- How to ensure employees notifies HR when they move
- Managing cyber security and documents that wouldn’t normally be at an employee’s home
Most of the Compliance and Coffee attendees said their companies have had success with a partially remote workforce. For one employer, there are only five roles that cannot be 100 percent remote.
Maintaining Company Culture
While employees have not seen each other in person as often during the pandemic, one employer said company culture has grown and even improved over the past year-plus.
Through additional Zoom and Microsoft Team video calls, shifting staff meetings on site, holding monthly happy hours, reaching out through surveys and more, this employer has reached out to employees to ask what they need. Employees are craving connection.
Bjorklund noted a major U.S. employer that expects a 60 percent remote workforce after the pandemic. Existing corporate space would be used for creation, collaboration and celebration.
Attendees of the first Compliance and Coffee were able to share their own experiences and reflect on how other companies are operating today and in the future.
While the above takeaways do not reflect the full range and depth of the discussion, they do provide some insight into the myriad questions that will continue to arise as employers shift to a larger remote workforce.