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The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

The international COVID-19 crisis during the Spring of 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging times for individuals, families, governments and businesses worldwide. While individuals attempt to self-isolate, practice social distancing and preserve some sense of normalcy for their families, organizations are struggling to maintain their products and services. The most critical challenge facing all businesses is how to continue to provide quality services and products while most, if not all, employees are working from home.

Here are five strategies critical to organizational success when employees are working remotely during a pandemic or international crisis:

  1. COMMUNICATE

Constant and clear communication from leadership is vital to ensuring employees are mindful of the need to telecommute, understand the guidelines related to time and work commitments, and are aware of the resources and support that are available. Supervisors should clearly communicate the need for check-ins, updates, deadlines and virtual meetings. They should also be providing regular feedback via phone or email. It’s also helpful for the human resources team to communicate with employees to identify and resolve any issues related to telecommuting and to check in since many employees may feel particularly isolated.

Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center. To read this entire Action Step become a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance.  To learn more about developing and implementing a successful flexible working policy, contact Manar Morales.  

Washington, DC – March 16, 2020 – Given the growing number of organizations allowing employees to work remotely to reduce the spread of Coronvirus (COVID-19), the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance today released guidelines regarding telecommuting best practices to help ensure employees are safe, engaged and productive.

“We encourage all corporations and organizations to offer remote working to their employees, to the extent possible, during the Coronavirus crisis,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “However, it’s important that employers exercise patience as they implement remote working, in particular in organizations where telecommuting has not been the norm. Employers should be mindful of the unique challenges employees are facing during this unprecedented crisis, such as childcare during school closures, eldercare and a heightened level of anxiety and stress,” she added. “Employers should consider offering resources such as remote working training, as well as childcare and technology stipends to ease the economic and emotional tolls this crisis is taking.”

The following guidelines are relevant for both those organizations that already have a formal telecommuting policy, as well as those that don’t:

  1. Clearly Communicate Availability and/or Need to Telecommute. Organizations need to be crystal clear with their employees regarding telecommuting in the wake of COVID-19. For employees that need to telecommute due to possible exposure, organizations should reach out, clarify the need to telecommute and the length of time it is necessary, and offer resources to help with this arrangement. Additionally, many organizations are offering the option to telecommute to avoid exposure – again, it is important to communicate the length of time (if any) this option can be used and resources/support available.
  2. Best Practices for Telecommuters. It is not enough to simply inform employees that they can or must telecommute. It is important to provide employees with guidelines on ways to telecommute effectively. For example, employees need to communicate well with team members regarding deadlines, project updates and availability; communication is especially important in this situation as workers are more isolated and may have more personal conflicts than usual (i.e. children home from school). As another example, organizations should clarify the difference between working remotely and taking a sick day.
  3. Best Practices for Supervisors. It is equally important to provide supervisors with best practices and guidelines for managing remote workers and teams. Supervisors will need to remain patient and be mindful that employees are dealing with many unusual challenges at this time. Supervisors should clearly communicate expectations with those working remotely (i.e. specify when they should join meetings via phone vs. video), foster communication (i.e. virtual meetings/check-ins), and provide regular feedback.
  4. Communicate Support/Resources. Organizations should carefully think through available resources/support for telecommuting employees. This is particularly important now, when there may be employees who are not used to telecommuting regularly and a larger volume than usual who may be working remotely. Human Resources, Talent Development and D&I Professionals should convene and discuss available resources, including organization-wide support that can be leveraged from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and membership organizations.
  5. Consider Providing Additional Resources. As employees who need to telecommute now may face different challenges, organizations need to think through ways to help them. Work with your IT Department to understand what additional technology might be necessary. Does your organization have enough bandwidth to support a large volume of telecommuters? Does your organization have an application for virtual meetings? Do you want to consider providing technology allowances to make sure employees have the necessary resources to be as productive as possible? In addition, it is important to think through childcare/eldercare support. Some employees may face school closures and need childcare. Have you communicated any childcare resources and/or dependent care policy to employees? Have you considered providing a paid subscription for childcare/eldercare sourcing platforms (i.e. Care.com, Sittercity.com, UrbanSitter.com, etc.)? Would your organization provide a special childcare/eldercare allowance to help defray costs?
  6. Check-In to Understand Experiences. A member from the human resources or talent management team should check-in with employees to understand their telecommuting experience, including what’s working well and what needs to improve. This way, organizations can resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and gather success stories. For employees who are mandated to work remotely due to possible exposure to COVID-19, it is particularly important to check-in as they may already feel isolated.

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

 

Contact: Manar Morales

manar@dfalliance.com

202-957-9650

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility. Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

While telecommuting has taken place on an informal and ad hoc basis for years, more organizations are implementing formal, written remote work policies. According to our 2017 Law Firm Benchmarking Survey, 61% of respondents indicated that their formal flexible work policies for attorneys included telecommuting. Remote work is an important job feature for many employees, and a formal telecommuting policy is an effective way to set parameters and expectations around working outside of the office.

However, organizations still struggle with gaining traction with their telecommuting policies. Common issues include: How do we make sure employees know about it? How do we increase usage rates? How do we make sure employees are teleworking in accordance with the firm’s policy? Here are some ways to overcome these issues and gain momentum with your telecommuting policy.

To learn more about effectively communicating about your organization’s telecommuting policy and becoming a member of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, contact Eliza Musallam, Director of Membership. Members can access the complete Action Step in the Member Resource Center

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center.

In order to recruit and retain top talent, organizations need to offer flexible work options to stay competitive. One of these options, telecommuting, has increased in use and popularity, and millennials in particular value, desire, and expect the ability to telecommute. As organizations become more global and more employees need to travel and work off-site, telecommuting has moved from a form of flexible work to being a business operations necessity. Organizations are also utilizing telecommuting as a way to cut real estate and overhead costs. When employers provide resources and support to help telecommuters succeed, they set themselves apart in terms of recruitment, retention, and productivity.

Employers should clearly communicate tactics and provide support to help remote workers succeed, both in terms of fostering effective team and individual productivity, as well as long-term career success. But like all forms of flexibility, successful telecommuting is a two-way street. Telecommuters need to: maintain visibility by having an active presence, foster relationships with key sponsors and mentors, be responsive, communicate their workload, proactively solicit feedback, be flexible about schedules, and maintain a professional workspace in order to reduce distractions and maintain focus…

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