Considerations for small businesses

With ongoing needs for social distancing, many small businesses across the nation have transitioned to work-from-home business models. Working from home doesn’t just reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, however. It may also boost productivity, improve morale, and reduce costs for small businesses.

Of course, whether it makes more sense for your teammates to work from home or at an office depends on several factors unique to your business as well as your industry. The considerations below can help you decide whether a home-based or office-based work model (or even a hybrid) is the right option for you and your employees.

Industry

The type of work your employees perform may determine whether working from home is ideal. Top industries for remote work include information technology, digital marketing, business administration and management, mobile app development, customer service, education and training, and human services. But even businesses in industries like construction, landscaping, food services, and health care can opt to have administrative employees work from home and operate using a hybrid model.

Productivity

Employers may feel they are better able to monitor productivity when they are in the same physical location as their employees. However, studies have shown workers may actually be more productive from home (BBC). Employees who work in the office are frequently interrupted every 11 minutes, according to a UC Irvine study, and it can take them nearly 25 minutes to get back on task. Working from home can come with its own set of distractions, so it’s essential to equip teammates with tips, training, and tools to boost productivity.

Morale

Many employees value the opportunity to work from home. Remote workers are spared the stress and expense of work commutes. Working from home has been shown to result in higher job satisfaction and reduced employee turnover. On the other hand, employees may feel disconnected or isolated. They can also remain glued to the computer screen for hours. To promote a healthy work environment, employers can host virtual team building events, make space for light-hearted and relaxed conversations, encourage employees to set timers and take breaks, and keep all remote employees in the loop.

Tools

The right tools can help small business owners effectively manage remote employees. There are now endless choices for digital solutions for communications, project management, performance tracking, payroll, billing, etc. Remote employees should be provided with work phones, computers, and specialized equipment. Supervisors can ensure each employee has a designated workspace that is appropriate and ergonomically designed for their work.

Communications

It is possible for remote work to dampen the flow of information for a business since coworkers can’t just pop into each other’s offices with questions or hold impromptu onsite meetings. However, there is now an entire industry dedicated to streamlining communications for employees who are collaborating from different locations. Small business owners can take advantage of various platforms and methods for communicating, such as holding one-on-ones, daily check-ins, weekly team meetings, instant messaging, email, virtual workspaces, video conferencing, and more.

Safety

Business owners still have responsibility for ensuring the safety of their employees, even when the employees are not on site. EHS Today recommends giving remote employees a workplace safety checklist to help mitigate risk and injuries. The list covers workspace ergonomics; slips, trips, and falls; fire safety; and stress and mental health.

Security

Employers who have remote employees can help protect their businesses by investing in antivirus and internet security software for their entire company. Further, they can provide workers with VPN connection, secured Wi-Fi, multi-factor identification, centralized storage, and webcam covers. Employees should perform regular software updates and password changes and should back up data. Moreover, they should ensure their family members do not have access to their work devices or confidential information.

Policies

Small businesses should provide remote employees with a written work-from-home policy explicitly outlining employee rights and expectations. This is a place for employers to set guidelines for office hours, job responsibilities, workspace needs, communications, team building, training, computer security, safety, insurance, equipment, and more.

Insurance

Business owners who have remote employees should speak with their insurance provider to ensure adequate coverage for various insurance needs. Generally, employees who are injured while performing work-related activities are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, even if they work from home. It’s critical to communicate with your employees about what their homeowner’s insurance covers versus what your general liability policy covers. Consider investing in other protection like cybersecurity insurance, and don’t forget to reexamine your commercial auto insurance and business property insurance policies.

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As laws change regularly, you should refer to your state legislation and/or an advisor for specific legal counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workers’ compensation insurance or check your current rate in 3 minutes.

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