It is no surprise by now that COVID-19 has drastically changed the way we work. Prior to the pandemic, a mere 6% of employees worked primarily from home. During the height of the pandemic, nearly 70% of employees were teleworking in the U.S. Although that number is currently much lower (more like 25%-35%) and their reasons for working remotely might not be COVID anymore, we know this trend is here to stay. Is your training program remote work ready?
Training a remote workforce
The trend toward remote work brings new challenges, specifically in the training industry, as workplaces scramble to create orientations, policies, procedures, agreements, and staff training that reflect the complexities that remote work can create. Challenges include transitioning in-person training to eLearning and figuring out the best ways to engage at-home workers.
But what about the actual content of that training? Does your HR training address the particularly sticky details surrounding remote work? Let’s find out.
Fewer workers in the building might make you think there is less chance for an employee to get injured on the job and need to file a worker’s comp claim. However, that isn’t necessarily the reality. In general, remote workers are covered under worker’s comp during their working hours, and an employer is responsible for safe work conditions even when the work location is an employee's house.
Let’s say you have a worker who is pacing the room while on a Zoom meeting. They trip over their dog, take a spill, and end up injured. Is that a worker’s comp claim? Chances are it could be. Which is why it is important to train all employees, even remote workers, on the appropriate steps to report an accident or injury.
When non-exempt employees report to a building, there is typically some sort of centralized system in place for keeping schedules, clocking in and out, and reporting break periods. In a remote world, we don’t run into our employees in the break room or see them coming through the doors at a specific time. Without these normal checkpoints in place to know that employees are “at work,” it becomes increasingly important to emphasize a timekeeping structure during your onboarding process.
Here are a few things to make sure you cover so your training is remote work ready.
Clear expectations about work time
Not only do staff need to know where to log their time, but it also needs to be clear what is considered work time and what isn’t. What if an employee goes to log in to their computer and it needs to run updates? Work time? How about if they take a ten-minute break to warm up lunch in the microwave? Work time?
Similarly, non-exempt staff will need to understand that any act of work—checking emails, working on a presentation, taking a phone call, creating a work schedule—needs to be counted as work time, even if it happens after typical work hours. Your organization must know and follow wage and labor laws—and clearly spell out requirements for employees.
In the absence of break rooms and hallways where we run into coworkers, it’s important for managers and employees to have intentional check-ins. Not only can regular check-ins help with remote worker productivity, but they also will make staff feel more connected to your organization and the team they work with.
Communicating schedule changes
For employees who work in a building, there is usually a pretty clear process for calling in sick, or letting folks know you are running late. But what about when you are remote? What if you are running late from an appointment and don’t have your work laptop with you? What if your computer suddenly gives you a black screen every time you open it?
Remote workers can face just as many obstacles as in-person workers and need multiple ways to communicate schedule changes. Your remote work training should include clear instructions related to sick leave and other time off.
Out of state remote workers
One benefit of remote work is the ability for employees to work from almost anywhere, and organizations can locate talent outside of their geographic location. However, you need to be aware that in the U.S. state laws may dictate policies for your workers. We’re talking about the laws in the states where they live and work.
For example, a worker’s home state may require a different amount of taxes withheld from payroll than your organization’s state. A 2021 survey found that 28% of remote employees worked outside their home state or country, but only one third of them had reported it to HR.
Staff training needs to emphasize the importance of communicating location throughout the duration of an employee’s remote career.
Here’s another example: Some states have specific training requirements for workers. In California, managers must receive two hours of harassment training every two years—and the term “manager” may apply to someone you don’t necessarily think of as a manager. If you have remote workers in California but aren’t taking California laws into consideration, you could face legal trouble. To make sure your training is remote work ready, you must consider the laws in the states where your workers live.
Online communication and behavior
Most organizations already have anti-harassment training in place, but have these trainings been adapted for the remote world? Unwanted physical touching from colleagues might no longer be a problem for remote workers, but virtual harassment can still present itself in many ways. Whereas HR once only had to worry about the decorations of cubicles not being offensive, now every remote employee’s home walls can be considered a workspace during Zoom meetings.
Online communication can embolden some employees, and they might say things they wouldn’t say face-to-face with another staff member. Additionally, in a virtual world it’s less likely that a witness will overhear something and report it. Virtual communication, specifically chat, can feel very casual. Without facial expressions, body language, and tone, it can often be hard to understand intention. In a 2021 study by Project Include, 45% of respondents reported they had seen harassment in their work chats during the previous year.
Training for staff has to be thorough, consistent, and ongoing in order to address appropriate communication and behavior for remote employees.
Remote work can create new security threats, and remote employees often have less access to IT staff than in-person employees. Remote staff rely on technology to be able to work and communicate with colleagues, and they might try to take matters into their own hands when technology isn’t working correctly. Organizations should consider creating a remote-work security plan to help address technology and security concerns for remote workers. Remote work training should include instructions for how to follow this plan.
Let us help you get remote work ready
While remote work brings many benefits, it also comes with unique challenges that we are only beginning to touch on. However, you can combat remote work challenges with updated staff onboarding and ongoing training. At EdgePoint Learning, we can help by collaborating with you to ensure your training is remote work ready. Let us know how we can help you!