Navigating remote working in the post-pandemic world: 6 tips for employers

Navigating remote working in the post-pandemic world: 6 tips for employers

Excerpted from a Seyfarth Shaw LLP blog by Marjorie R. Culver and Caitlin E. Lane

As employers around the globe consider what their organization’s post-pandemic return to work will look like, one thing is certain: hybrid and remote work arrangements will be part of the new normal.

Creating a sustainable flexible work environment requires consideration of nearly every facet of business operations. From HR and real estate, to health and safety and diversity initiatives, employers are faced with a multitude of issues.

In fact, a recent survey found that navigating remote and hybrid work was the number one concern business leaders have coming out of COVID-19.

Below are six tips to help guide global employers:

1. Properly document working arrangements.
As employers begin to formalize hybrid and remote working arrangements, documenting the agreed upon location(s) of work is not only best practice, but may be legally required.

In particular, outside of the US amendments to existing employment contracts may be necessary, or in some cases, entirely new agreements may be required. For instance, in just the past year, new telework/remote working laws have been passed in Spain, Colombia and Mexico, among others, which impose specific employment documentation obligations in relation to the working arrangement.

2. Tread carefully when considering cross-border remote working.
While the concept of being able to work from anywhere in the world may be appealing to employees, employers should be very cautious when considering such requests. Cross-border working raises a host of issues—from corporate and income tax implications, to work permit and data privacy considerations.

From an employment perspective, cross-border remote work can implicate the labor and social security/insurance remittance laws of both localities, potentially leaving an employer at risk of claims or fines if the proper laws have not been considered. The ability to protect intellectual property and confidential information can also be impacted.

3. Understand the employer obligations regarding expenses for home-working.
Employers must not only consider the business cost impact of hybrid and remote working, but also need to understand the legal obligations relating to expenses and equipment. In particular, employers should be aware of what home-working expenses must be borne by the employer and what expenses must or can be reimbursed. Similarly, an understanding of whether home office equipment must be provided is also essential.

The permissibility of stipends and allowances, as well as their impact on other compensation elements, should be taken into consideration.

4. Evaluate health and safety issues specific to hybrid and remote work.
Working from home, whether on a fully remote or hybrid basis, introduces distinct health and safety considerations for employers. As a starting point, consider the legal obligations. For instance, some countries have health and safety requirements that are specific to the remote working such as audits of the workspace or providing certain equipment.

Then, consider other health and safety issues such as mental health and employee well-being from the remote working perspective. While there may be health initiatives in place for office workers, consider how these initiatives translate to remote workers. For example, remote workers may be more prone to feelings of isolation than those in the office.

5. Ensure diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts remain a top priority for many employers. As flexible working arrangements become more standard, DEI policies and practices must take into account the impact of hybrid and remote working. For example, consider how mentoring and leadership training programs are best delivered to hybrid and remote workers and ensure opportunities for all employees, irrespective of the work arrangement.

6. Embrace hybrid and remote working for recruitment.
Employees want flexibility and in the post-pandemic era, they will be expecting it as an option. If hybrid and remote working becomes the new norm as expected, companies that develop a more flexible working plan can leverage that internal framework as a tool to attract talent.

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