Even before the government imposed lockdown on 24th March, a majority of India’s private sector had been working from home in consonance with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ advisory, which amongst other relaxations with respect to board meetings, financial statements etc. included an expectation that companies would initiate an immediate plan to incorporate a ‘work from home’ policy till 31st March, 2020. To this end, companies were asked to file CAR (Company Affirmation of Readiness towards COVID-19) through a web form on the 23rd of March.
Despite the above, there still is a great deal of doubt with regards to how a work from home policy should be implemented, what it must contain and how the same can be tailored to your company’s unique requirements so as to promote efficient work outcomes. Prompted by this, the author aims to provide a summary of some key components, which if included in your work from home policy, will be beneficial from a compliance as well as an efficiency perspective.
Five Key Components
First, it is essential that a work from home policy balances employees’ needs with financial realities, this means formulating a leave policy in consonance with the same. One question that commonly raises doubts is the credit of leave entitlements when employees are working from home. The answer to this question is quite clear, there is no provision under Indian law that permits deduction of leave entitlements. Even compelling employees to avail unpaid leave is a violation of a workers’ rights.
Second, it is imperative that organisations focus on measures that promote effective and efficient use of technology to bridge the communication gap that occurs when face-to-face interactions are not possible. This includes measures like mandating regular, intentional peer-to-peer interactions by way of creating virtual check-ins with managers, regular meetings between core team leaders and active communication with the HR.
Third, it is essential to establish team guidelines as working remotely affects individuals in distinct ways depending on various factors. For example, many employees must take on a double role as they support their children and families throughout the work day. To tackle such issues, teams should consensually set a fixed time every day when all team members are available to collaborate. This requires both management and HR leaders to provide flexibility for their employees’ remote work needs.
Fourth, it is crucial to set clear guidelines that deal with work-hours, quality of work, reporting and scheduled meetings. There may be a question in an employers’ mind with regards to whether an employee is putting in the requisite hours in a day and if wages in accordance are justified based on hours worked.
Lastly and perhaps most pertinently, the employer must showcase the transparency by informing their employees of the policy with regards to payment of wages, bonus, allowances, benefits and all other matters relating to compensation. Any confusion with regards to these could create doubt in the minds of the workforce, and is not conducive to a healthy work environment.
With rumours of the lockdown being extended beyond April 14th looking likely, it is essential that employers prepare for the unfavourable but foreseeable future. Please drop your thoughts, comments, queries and suggestions on WFH policies below.
Click for Audio Version: The Essentials of a Work From Home (WFH) Policy