Re-envisioning remote working post the Covid-19 pandemic


The world is about to hit the 1-year mark for the Pandemic breakout. Initially, Covid-19 managed to affect almost everything from health to business. Social distancing and nation lockdown made in-office working impossible. Still, It didn’t take much time for the organization to launch remote working as a feasible solution, the success of which is record-breaking in its way. Looking at the remote working success, employers are now second-guessing what seemed as a temporary solution could now be adopted as a long-term working model. Such thought process is backed up by facts and findings from statistics drawn from surveys which state:

  • Out of 93% of companies who believe remote working to be productive, 67% of them vouch for their workforce to work remotely in the future. Post pandemic, 8 out of 10 employees would prefer work from home
  • 50% of surveyed employers expect that most of their employees will telework long after the pandemic has ended.
  • As per Gartner’s June Survey, Companies believe flex time to be the new normal, and 47% of companies would be happy to allow full-time remote working for their employees.
  • The European Commission marked 40% employees working under Telework Policy during covid times.

 The necessity of adopting remote working in the initial time of pandemic nudged the employers to reassess their approach towards change management. This is the testing point of a company where organizations should thrive by having a firm hand. It is significant for both Employers and employees to understand the Legal landscape of the new normal. For many employers, the remote working staff is higher than usual – which signifies higher legal risk. The organization may fall victim to the stagnated economy if the following legal issues relating to employees are not adequately monitored:

  • Wages / hours /leaves
  • Terminations / collective dismissals
  • Occupational health and safety
  • Tax (payroll and corporate)

There is no rewind button in life, and you cannot go back to the time where no trace of covid-19 ever existed. In reality, the pandemic has hay-wired the entire working model; thus, what you can control is not the situation but your positive attitude towards any adversity and move ahead with minor changes in day-to-day living. Along with validating legal issues, employers must decide whether to amend the existing policy or introduce a new remote working policy entirely. The policy should be extensive enough to reflect the latest laws and jurisdiction passed, keeping in mind the current prevailing situation.

Remote working policy– From what we see happening in the economy, remote working isn’t going anywhere, and it is here to stay for the long run. It is fetching productive outputs in return with less expense to the employer. Employers might as well start drafting a potentially strong remote working policy in the handbook.

Disciplinary Policy– In the work from office model, if employees’ work gets delayed or they are not at their desk for a long time, it is easier for employers to trace their actions and take necessary steps. Whereas remote working comparatively makes it difficult for an employer to trace every employee’s action, let alone discipline them for any misconduct, making amendments in disciplinary policy during remote working much more necessary. With employees working from the comforts of home, few liberalizations could be made in discipline policy but should not be at the cost of reduced employee productivity. For example, employees should be clear about the policies, like what is the consequence if an employee fails to respond to an email promptly? How many “strikes” does the employee get before there are consequences?

Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying Policies- Discrimination and harassment are not only monitored when employees are within office premises but working remotely as well. The employee might be suffering from illness or health problems due to long hours of remote working, and it should be made sure he is not being harassed or overburdened with work and pressured to achieve more than his daily work target. Proper training could be modulated for employers and supervisors that clarifies the extent of discrimination and harassment covered under remote work policy.

Data Protection Policies / Data Security Policies- Many employees working remotely may end up working on an unsecured network and might not maintain the same security level to the database that is implemented within office premises. Thus, an understanding of such data protective policies should be covered under the amended remote work policy.

Timekeeping Policies – What is expected from employees when he is not responding to email or getting late for virtual meetings. Timekeeping policy under remote working should be embodied with such consideration and how employer enforce those policies when physical presence in the office is not possible. The employer should address meal and rest break policies as an extensive segment under timekeeping policy to cover traceability issues for employee breaks.

Employee Dismissals – When it comes to employers’ responsibility towards managing employees, their utmost attention should be given to the employee dismissal process, especially in a remote working scenario. Employers need to lay down-regulated protocols for effectuating dismissals. Employee dismissal is a rigorous process; if handled carelessly, it could also end up tainting the organization’s image that the employee might be having during its employment journey. Dismissal meetings always require a witness person, which often is the HR of the organization that makes sure that the assets retrieving process is completed effectively. Ensure the IT team is prepared to implement accessibility protocols, e.g. email, network, etc. keeping in mind the impact of legal requirements based on the employee’s location. It is recommended to involve legal counsel early in the process so these gating items can be identified.

Furthermore, to lessen the burden on managers in monitoring employee performances, they could be trained on all remote work protocols. Employees must be made aware of performance expectations, including new and amended policies, reporting obligations, working time, and deliverables. A proper documentation system to be installed within the company system would help check past performance records of employees working from their home locations. Communication is the key in the remote work mode. It’s essential to maintain regular contact with teams on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Employees should know where or whom to reach out to for issues and concerns. Performance reviews should be updated to include attainable criteria during the COVID-19 pandemic, and generally for remote work. The employer should also ensure that employees have signed new and updated policies and remote work agreements.

There are pros and cons to remote working. In the current situation, it’s hard to determine when things will retrieve back to Pre-COVID conditions. Few Employers might choose to work from the office twice a week post covid. In contrast, some employers might side with remote working entirely; in, either way, organizations need to get used to rapid change management for a smooth transition in business processes, whether Payroll, Human Capital Management, Business Operations, etc. Remote working is here to stay; it is the new normal for the future!

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