In April 2021 Leo Varadkar, the Irish Minister of Enterprise, Trade & Employment made a statement:

 “The pandemic has transformed working practices, and many of those changes will be long-lasting. Although much of the impact of the pandemic has been negative, particularly for those who have lost jobs, income or whose businesses have been closed, it also offers an opportunity to make permanent changes for the better, whether that is working more from home, having more time with the family, or more flexible working hours.

“I am announcing two things today. Firstly, I have signed a new Code of Practice giving all employees the Right to Disconnect. This is effective immediately. Secondly, I am opening a public consultation on the right to request remote working, inviting views from all on how this right can be enshrined in law.”

No alt text provided for this image

This was a bold move by the Irish Government who have recognised that the world of work has changed forever which will bring about a lot of challenges for both employers and employees to get it right.

 There has been a lot of debate in the UK about the right to disconnect and in Canada, the federal government is investigating a similar policy.

Most people who know me well, know that I am a firm advocate of remote working. In pre-pandemic days, I spoke at Disrupt HR in 2018… little did I know what was coming down the line only a short 18 months later…

While remote or hybrid working seems to be a logical solution for most knowledge-based workers it does not happen automatically without risk.

For remote working to really work with companies (and employees), they must embrace a predefined remote/hybrid working arrangement. Clarity is the most important thing when remote working.

10 suggestions for managing remote teams and setting ground rules for remote working.

 1.    Agree on rules and guidelines that work for both the employer and employee.

Create a policy in consultation with your employees that works and is reviewed regularly. (because of the current uncertainty I would review this policy quarterly for the foreseeable future)

2.    Automate task reporting where possible.

When working from home, it is so important to report on time spent working. Logging timesheets and using software to managing projects shouldn’t feel like someone is looking over your shoulder. When framed correctly to your employees, you can point out that it is a productivity tool to show where they are spending their time. This is an invaluable piece of data when looking at resource planning and performance.

3.    Have fixed meet up times

Make them a regular fixture, once a day, week, month, whatever works for you best, people must attend and contribute at these.

4.    Create ways for your employees to drive the agenda

Allow your employees to request training, holidays, and reviews with their manager. This gives your employees the feeling that they are contributing to the wider company structure.

5.    Enable that each employee can see each other’s availability

Conduct all meetings with an ‘on-camera’ policy.

6.    Involve your employees in the working process.

Perhaps a traditional 9-5 working days do not work for them. Discuss how you can help facilitate how they can work and agree on it. The bottom line is to listen and help them to create a work-life balance that works.

No alt text provided for this image

 7.    Develop a culture of trust and truth

Make it easy for people to ask questions no matter how silly they may be.

8.    Keep all employees in a constant state of review

Performance management reviews shouldn’t happen just a couple of times a year. Constant catchups are proven to help develop people quicker within organisations. Employees should always feel like they are working on some element of their backhand, that they are constantly learning.

9.    Develop a set of principles/competencies/behaviours/values

 Keep adding to your principles/competencies/behaviours/values as your business develops. Use your principles in recruitment & selection, performance management, communications and adult or employee development.

 In conclusion

The Right to Work, Code of Practice, or Company Policy needs employers and employees to work together, to determine the appropriate working arrangements and policies for themselves.

Employees now have more autonomy to have more options to work outside of traditional hours, which so many people have made use of during the pandemic.

The Managing of Working Time in accordance with the various acts in different jurisdictions falls with the employer. This code of practice advocated by the Irish Minister of Enterprise Trade & Employment in Ireland puts a dual responsibility on both the employee and the employer.

Disconnecting from work needs to be discussed with both the manager and employees and a best practice policy needs to be created and agreed upon and should be reviewed frequently as the workplace is constantly evolving.

Nobody is rushing back to the office full time, and it seems that the pandemic has inadvertently brought about a workplace revolution which will be interesting to see play out. Many large companies have already stepped up and claimed that they will invoke a ‘work from anywhere’ policy in their organisations.

I congratulate the Irish government on this policy, it’s a great step forward. It is so good to see Ireland pushing a Code of Practice that provides a practical guide on the right to disconnect.

I want you to leave the article with at least one thing that will be of help to you. I have outlined the steps that HRLocker took to transition to a fully dispersed company.

We establish fixed meetings that people had to attend at three levels:

1.    Required by the Company

2.    Required by my manager

3.    Required by me as the employee

These fixed meetings for us go as follows.

1.    Weekly all-hands call on a Monday

2.    Daily stand-ups for employees at the departmental level

3.    Weekly 30min one-one sessions with your manager

4.    Employees quarterly Realtime Review

We have also enabled an employee/manager can request a formal sit-down at any time on any issue which will always be dealt with openly and transparently.

Most importantly, we operate a “camera on” policy.

Our secret sauce is that we put adult development at the centre of our business strategy which allows people to share their vulnerabilities so they can develop without prejudice.

At the end of the day, placing you people at the centre of your business strategy and ensuring you provide a happy and healthy workplace for everyone to thrive, is the key to every successful organisation.

 To find out more about how HRLocker operates, get in touch, I am happy to share.