Remote Work During the COVID-19 Shutdown

In the last 10 days, we have seen a drastic change in our daily lives due to the latest Coronavirus (COVID19).  One of these changes is the sudden requirement to work remotely.

For millions, that means work from home rather than in an office environment.  While modern technology makes many jobs “doable from home”, there are still many adjustments that must be made to work efficiently in a remote configuration.  In particular, many organizations will need to coordinate, communicate, change and comply differently than they do now. Let’s explore each of these areas:

When working remotely, it can be difficult to “be on the same page” as those we work with.  This is especially true in cases where colleagues and business partners are used to working in the same office.  Make sure calendars are visible and synced and that project management software is being used properly by the whole team.  “Properly” in this case means that the software is used in ways that other members of the team can expect it to be used. Since peer to peer contact now happens electronically, efficiency happens when all of the users are well-coordinated with each other.

When team members are operating remotely, being away from each other has both benefits and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that the synergies that come from being in the same office don’t happen when teams work remotely.  This means that planned daily or weekly meetings are more important than ever. Yet, periodic meetings only go half of the way to recreating synergies lost by working remotely. Impromptu peer to peer communications need to be facilitated as well. Ensure chat programs are available to facilitate peer to peer and group discussions outside of set meeting times.  Making sure that these opportunities to connect exist is essential to staying coordinated and maintaining the direction and motivation needed for teams to succeed.

Once the right levels of coordination and communication have been established, it is important to be open to changes in the way business typically runs in the organization.  One major change that organizations might require in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is more redundancy. Redundancy in the form of “backup” may be needed just in case certain team members become ill and need to focus their attention away from work and towards getting better.  Another way to change organizationally is through making special accommodations that would normally not be made. One area of accommodation might be a financial allowance to employees to establish a productive home office. 

“…periodic meetings only go half of the way to recreating synergies lost by working remotely.”

When dealing with any changes that affect employer and contractor relationships, it is important to be aware of the contractual obligations set forth in the employee and contractor agreements. In addition to any contractual rights and responsibilities, companies need to be aware of how their decisions to go remotely affect their legal obligations as a workplace.  How and when people are compensated for their work, what constitutes adequate performance in a remote environment and what activities are considered to be work are all affected.

Are you migrating or have already migrated to a remote work environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic?  If so, contact South Florida Law for a free Business Law consultation to see where your organization may have areas that require proactive legal attention.  Call us on (954) 900-8885 or click here to contact us via our contact form.

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