Safely Transitioning to a Remote Workforce in Your Small Business
This year’s Covid-19 pandemic forced many small businesses to experiment with, or make a permanent transition to, a remote workforce. While working remotely has been more common in certain industries and regions, smaller businesses have been slower in moving towards the trend. Not all businesses are suited to remote work, but for the ones that are, there can be benefits and expense savings.
Current health risks have increased both owners and workers’ desire to structure businesses with flexibility to work from home. But, even before Covid-19, eighty percent of U.S. workers say they would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. Remote workers also tend to have more longevity helping improve employee retention rates.
Remote work statistics show employees in a flexible environment are happier, less stressed, and more productive. This not only can improve the bottom line, but healthier employees can reduce health insurance costs as well. By switching up some operations to remote, small businesses can reduce their office or brick and mortar footprint including rent, furnishings, equipment, etc.
Downsides can be lack of in-person collaboration, interaction, and oversight. Owners can find it challenging to have limited control over how employees spend their time or use company equipment. It also takes some initial planning to create new policies, training, and provide tools for remote use.
Protecting Your Small Business
Remote Not the Wild West. With a remote working set-up, it is important that both employer and employee know expectations, company rules, and how to handle themselves from a home environment. It is important to remain consistent to your brand image and procedures. Set up specific training and procedures for how calls and customer interactions are handled, how equipment is used and what programs, apps, etc. are allowed. Make sure employees have a designated space to handle company business and provide furnishings, tools, equipment, and technology needed for them to succeed.
Remote Not Contract. Just because your employees are working from home, doesn’t mean you can reclassify them to save on payroll costs. Make sure you check state and federal laws for proper classifications for employees to protect yourself and your employees. This includes unemployment and other insurance coverage like general liability and workers’ comp.
Remote Not Unprotected. With remote work it is even more important to choose the right WIFI network, virus protection, email encryption, firewall, and program/app usage. This should not be left to your employees to choose but should be part of your overall company policies and procedures. Problems can occur if customer information is not protected or business communications are interspersed with personal communications.
As with any area of running your small business, you should be watching out for ways to avoid issues with employees or customers including a lawsuit. While remote working has many benefits, it is important to take the time to lay out a plan and communicate that plan and expectations with employees.
Fairview Law is a Charlotte, North Carolina business and franchise law firm. Our attorneys help small businesses protect and grow their companies. We’re here if you need us.