With a stay-at-home order in effect across Florida, with the exception of essential businesses, all businesses in the Sunshine State are required to shift their operations to remote work. Even for essential businesses, employers are being encouraged by public health officials and the state government to explore remote capabilities for those employees that are not involved in critical aspects of the business. Essentially, all construction employees that aren’t required to step foot on the jobsite can be transitioned over to telework if it’s feasible.
With millions of Americans moving to remote work in the last month, this is a unique situation for businesses nationwide, including construction businesses. In this article, a Ft. Myers construction attorney will discuss a few effective ways you can shift certain aspects of your operations to telework. We will also discuss some of the legal issues that will need to be addressed when you do.
From instituting telework policies to reviewing your employee manual or performing a risk assessment, there are many areas of your business that will need to be assessed. For employment manual review and assistance with policy creation, consult a Ft. Myers construction lawyer.
The First Steps to Transitioning to Telework
When you begin the process of shifting some of your workers to telework, there are several immediate tasks that will need to be addressed, including:
- Review Your Handbook: Begin by reviewing your employee handbook and determining if any company policies will need to be adjusted to accommodate this unique situation. For example, a COVID-19 construction lawyer advises employers to review the confidentiality agreement in their handbook and share this information with their staff. It’s critical that employees understand that the sharing of any private company information (through email, social media, etc.) is strictly prohibited.
- Determine Eligibility: Employers will need to assess the eligibility of some of their employees to determine if they can be moved to telework. Clearly, some workers like equipment operators will not be able to move to remote work, but other office employees’ responsibilities may have to be assessed closer. If the employee can perform the essential functions of their position remotely, chances are that they will qualify. Many of these issues can be addressed on a case-by-case basis with the help of a COVID-19 construction attorney.
- Set Clear Expectations: Outline the HR policies and best practices for telework to ensure your team is on the same page. Set clear expectations regarding work hours. Stress that employees must be available during these hours. Stress that they must adhere to deadlines and report to supervisors as they would in the office. It’s important that employees are aware of the specific guidelines in place for telework to have an effective system.
- Complete These Transitional Tasks: Some final tasks to complete during this transition include having an HR representative verify the contact information of all your employees that are moving to telework. Also task your IT staff with assisting employees with setting up their remote workstations.
Performing a Risk Assessment
As Ft. Myers construction attorneys, we often stress the importance of performing a risk assessment of all aspects of your business, including when operations shift to allow employees to telework. Here are a few aspects of telework in which the risk aspect needs to be addressed before an unforeseen issue arises:
- Data Breaches: Are your work-from-home computers secure, or is there a chance of a data breach? It’s important to address the risks associated with remote work and the possibility of a data breach. Also, what you can do to mitigate these risks?
- Policy Abuse: Unfortunately, some employees can take advantage of the perks of telework. Are there systems in place for tracking the progress of your employees? Are achievable goals set by managers for every team member? Businesses will need to consider ways they can hold employees accountable so that these privileges aren’t abused.
- Confidentiality Risks: As we discussed above, confidentiality breaches are more prone to happen during remote work. It’s important to assess which employees have access to confidential information and what would be the impact of that information being leaked to the public. In some cases, access may need to be temporarily revoked if it presents a security risk.
Creating an Effective Communication System
One of the greatest challenges of moving to a telework system is keeping your team engaged. There are several processes and techniques that can help keep everyone feeling connected.
- Keeping Employees Informed: Employers can send out daily or weekly newsletters for company-related updates informing employees of the newest information related to company policies, protocols, and procedures. Businesses should also send out the latest guidelines from public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This keeps everyone informed of the latest news while encouraging employees to seek information from a trusted source.
- Improving Teamwork with Technology: There are several ways that technology can improve processes and increase productivity. You can move all in-person meetings to a video conference system like Zoom or Skype. You can utilize a cloud-based system like Google Docs for all collaborative projects. Whether it’s creating work task sheets in a system like TeamWork or keeping a live chat room available for all teleworkers to communicate in, you can increase productivity and help workers feel more connected with the right technology in place.
From company policy adjustments to cybersecurity concerns and changing the work culture overnight, there are many areas of transitioning to telework that an employer must consider in order to maintain their operations. For employment law advice or assistance with any construction-related legal needs, including OSHA and license defense, consult a Ft. Myers construction defect attorney with Cotney Construction Law.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.