During the coronavirus pandemic many companies worldwide had to radically shift and adapt to remote working. As a temporary measure this has been an overwhelming success for many. For companies that are planning to trade internationally having a worker or a number of employees based overseas can be a great advantage. Remote working can allow you to establish operations in other countries without having to set up an office abroad.
But working remotely can present several challenges, as well as benefits. If your company had to adapt quickly to this style of working, in response to the pandemic, you may be considering introducing working remotely on a more permanent basis. If you are, or if you are thinking of employing remote workers overseas; there are several things that you’ll need to consider for your company and employees.
If you’re planning on introducing remote work to your business, why not download our free remote working checklist to make sure you’ve thought of everything?
Benefits of remote working for international trading
Rather than opening an office abroad, having remote employees can be an easy way to start trading internationally. Having employees who are local to an area or country can be a major advantage when it comes to market knowledge. Being able to employ staff overseas without opening a full office there allows you to avoid excessive overheads and explore new markets. Remote working can save employees time and money with regards to commuting and overall lead to an increase in productivity for businesses. This means that your business is minimizing cash burn and also maximising productivity. However, there are also a number of considerations and processes that need to be in place for remote workers.
As an employer you generally have a responsibility towards ensuring the health and safety of your staff, whether they work in a traditional office or from home. As your employee’s house becomes their workplace, an accident that occurs there could become a workplace incident and you could be held liable. That’s why it’s important to discuss employee liability and remote working options with your insurance company to make sure you’re fully covered.
Ergonomics and Equipment
It is necessary for you as an employer to supply and support your employee with any equipment and/or technology they will need to complete their job. When it comes to employees that are working from home this takes on a new prominence. You will need to ensure both that your IT systems can support the number of staff working from home and that IT support is available to them if they do have an issue. An employee’s workplace and equipment are vital when it comes to completing their job. If they don’t have the proper space and amenities to complete their job from home if can be incredibly difficult. Not having a proper desk and office chair, for example, can lead to future health issues for your staff member. That is why ergonomics are so crucial when it comes to productivity and working from home.
GDPR offers enhanced privacy protection rights to individuals in Europe in relation to the processing of their personal data (if you’d like to know more about GDPR we have A Beginner’s Guide to GDPR here). As such businesses must ensure that their personal data is processed in line with the principles of GDPR. If your business or remote workers are located outside of the EU this may not apply but data protection is still indispensable to the security of your business.
Data protection becomes more difficult to ensure when personal data is stored outside of a central office. That is why it’s vitally important to ensure that all employees fully understand your company’s privacy and security policies. Ensuring that employees are clearly trained in the security and protection of data and their responsibilities when it comes to this, is crucial especially in the case of remote workers. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission even published this handy infographic aimed at staff members to promote the protection of personal data when working remotely in response to the huge increase of this type of work because of COVID-19.
An important part of ensuring your company and personal data remains protected is by instilling good cyber security systems and practices in your remote working arrangements. Encrypting the hard drives on company laptops and instilling the vital importance of strong passwords to all employees restricts access to the device and reduces the risk of data being compromised if the laptop is lost or stolen. While strong passwords are important, it is recommended that anywhere 2-factor authorization is available it is used. This is particularly crucial if using services like G-Suite by Google for company information. Another good step in cyber security is to require your workers to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using Wi-Fi. A VPN is a paid service that keeps your web browsing secure.
Work Hours and Break Times
In Ireland, the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 lays out the break, daily and weekly rest times that employees are entitled to. Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that this legislation is followed. In fact, as an employer you are required to record working time information for each employee and retain this information for three years. Ensuring that this obligation is met and that employees are taking proper breaks presents significant difficulty when it comes to remote workers. A time management system or some other software to keep track of remote workers hours and attendance can be particularly useful in this case. Employers in the UK have similar obligations under the Working Time Regulations (1998), which also states that unless opted out of, employees should work no more than 48 hours per week.
Working remotely is different from working in a traditional workplace and as such your company’s policies need to reflect this. If you haven’t adjusted your employee handbook, company policies and even employee contracts to reflect remote working you definitely should. Make sure your processes in relation to staff performance, as well as management are thorough enough to manage employees that work from home. Consider whether you’ll need to put new procedures in place to cover this style of work and include these procedures in your company policies.
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