Workflow trackers, re-deployment and roadworks causing staff problems

I want to implement a workflow tracker to ensure staff that work remotely do their contracted hours, but I am getting push back. What are my rights here?

If you manage remote workers, you probably trust them for the most part. But every now and then you may have suspicions that a certain employee is not working the hours contracted. You can’t see them sitting at their desk, so it can be tough to know for sure.

As it turns out, there are some ways to ensure your employees are working when they should be. A workflow tracker is option. It may be that you presented it as a ‘management tool’ instead of as a way to boost your team’s efficiency. A suggestion is that you introduce some of these less formal ‘trackers’ below to make sure your employees are working, without pushing any buttons or invading their privacy.

Set measurable goals. One sure way to ensure that your employees are meeting their goals is to actually set some up for them. If they meet them on time it is a good sign they are being productive.
Track their status. Look to see if their emails are answered promptly and their status is updated regularly and consistently online.
Schedule check-ins. To avoid a Big Brother-esque feel, be upfront about wanting to know what your employees are working on by scheduling check-ins.
Speak with other employees. Schedule a meeting with your team and ask questions to find out if everyone is working well together, and if they feel that everyone is pulling their virtual weight. That way you can figure out if your employees are all working at the same pace without invading their privacy.
Try collaboration tools. In a remote work environment, collaboration tools are often used to help keep everyone working together cohesively. Here are some tools that can help you track an employee’s productivity:
· Time Doctor
· Trello
· Asana
· Todoist

There are major roadworks around our office set to last for at least 6 months. Staff are arriving late to work every day, can I implement flexible working arrangements with my full timers to avoid the stress?

Whilst you can control your workforce and workplace, sometimes the best laid plans are undermined by external forces, especially roadworks. Staff are understandable stressed when their normal patterns of travel to and from work are disrupted through no fault of their own. Ironically, the Employment Relations Act provides employees with the right to request a variation of their working arrangements and an employer must respond to a request as soon as possible, but no later than 1 month after receiving the request.

Turn this around, and there can be no reason, in principle, why you as the employer cannot propose a ‘variation of the working arrangements’, which could include hours of work.

The types of flexible working arrangements could include
Changing the start and/or finish times
Changing the total number of hours worked. For example, requesting to move from full-time to part-time work
Requesting to work from home
Requesting to work at another company office

To initiate the consultation with your full timers, we recommend that you make the proposal, and ask the employees to put their feedback in writing. Any changes agreed need to be clearly documented as the agreement will amount to a legally binding variation to the terms and conditions of their employment and should therefore clearly document the agreed variation. You also need to include the period of time the variation will occur over, what the start/end dates are, and what changes, if any, the employer may need to make if the request is agreed such as security and access.

The Coronavirus has held up the parts we need for manufacturing, so I need to assign different roles for some staff until they arrive. Am I allowed to do that?

Many companies are going fully transparent with their internal communications and policies in response to the virus. Staff are scared and unsure of what is going on and how it may impact their jobs. Every workplace setting today should be discussing their policies and directives, step by step, with their employees. If you do not have a Crisis Communication Policy in place, consider your communication to everyone working on site or remotely, as to how you intend to respond. A clear plan of action is required in in the workplace, to deal with this pandemic.

It is important to provide clear guidance to employees about at-work expectations over the next few months. The first place to look, when you are considering a variation of an employee’s role, is their Individual Employment Agreement (IEA). At best, it should allow some flexibility to the position; at worst there might be strict compliance to the ‘letter of the job description.’ Before you implement any changes to the terms and conditions of employment, be aware of the Agreements in place, unions, and other agencies you need to consider (e.g. Worksafe.)

Should you not have a policy in place to deal with variable hours and roles, or need to communicate your operational requirements, whilst considering your staff’s circumstances, consider getting a consultant to guide you through these uncharted waters.

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