Feature Article:A work from home policy should be designed to meet staff expectations while maintaining productivity levels

A work from home policy should be designed to meet staff expectations while maintaining productivity levels

In line with the governments COVID-19 advice relating to social distancing in the workplace, businesses have been advised to provide flexible work arrangements including working from home (where possible). The coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) pandemic has compelled businesses to revisit work-from-home policies.

Working remotely:

Due to the spread of COVID-19, working from home arrangements have become a priority for many RTOs. Many of you have been forced into implementing urgent work-from-home arrangements and it hasn’t been easy. Allowing your staff to work remotely is not only an effective way to mitigate the risk of infection, but it also allows RTO’s to maintain continuity of business operations.

If your RTO doesn’t already have a flexible work from home policy, now is the time to create one. RTO’s business continuity plans (BCP) should incorporate your policy for provisioning your remote workforce. Part of enacting your BCP should include the identification of work that is being done by your workforce and determining if it can be paused, re-located or continued with different environmental controls in place.

Managing staff remotely for success:

RTOs need to ensure that leaders are set up for success in managing teams remotely, and adequate support systems are in place to monitor staff wellbeing and health. Managers should understand that people might be coordinating at different times of the day to balance family responsibilities during a crisis. Additionally, some people can adapt to working from home easily but others may struggle because they find it quite lonely and socially isolating. Mental health issues in the workplace could be exacerbated for some people forced into these situations and RTOs should have appropriate support mechanisms in place to address these issues if they occur.

Effective communication strategies such as:

  • Utilising chat  tools for quick  conversations e.g. WhatsApp, Slack; 
  • Weekly  one on one catch ups via video call e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams;

will ensure that your remote employees are productive and engaged. Make sure staff can access all the right tools and resources to effectively work in a remote team environment. 

Communicate and manage policy / work expectations: 

RTOs need the tools, policies and processes in place to keep your remote workers connected and effectively contributing to your objectives and goals. Your work-from-home policy should be designed to meet staff expectations while maintaining productivity levels. Set, communicate and manage policy and work expectations for staff. For example, in what scenarios staff should stay at home or travel. Your employees must know what your RTO is doing, how you’re doing it, and when, in order to feel certain that any scenario has been accounted for, which will increase feelings of safety. You will need to monitor its effectiveness and the overall wellbeing of staff. This requires planning and review, but with careful consideration you can keep staff safe and productive and come away with learnings on how to continue to provide flexible working environments into the future. While large-scale work from home initiatives may seem difficult when they have to be implemented urgently, RTOs can navigate it successfully with the right tools, strategies, and approach.

References:

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/faqs/covid-19

Feature Article: A business continuity plan should form part of your overall business plan.

A business continuity plan should form part of your overall business plan.

Failure to plan is planning to fail

What is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP):

A BCP provides a clear outline of what systems to implement to ensure your RTO continues to operate in the event of a crisis or other disruptive event like a natural disaster. You BCP should also deal with recovery from the disruption and provide steps to return to normal business operations. The plan ensures that your staff and assets are protected and your RTO is able to function quickly in the event of a crisis.  RTOs must understand the processes within their organisation and the potential impact of the loss of these processes over time. Financial, legal, reputational or regulatory losses could be a result of the mishandling of a disruption to business operations. Special consideration should be given to the risk of having your RTO’s “license to operate” withdrawn by a regulator or having sanctions or conditions applied to how you can operate as it can adversely affect your reputation and brand. Your BCP should incorporate your recovery strategy around the allowable downtime for these processes.

Benefits of a BCP

  • Ensures your most critical business functions can continue during a crisis or disruption
  • Ensures your have a way to get your business operations functionally up and running so your RTO can continue to be viable after a crisis or disruption
  • Protects your RTOs reputation and value and increases customer confidence in your brand by being able to handle any incident effectively
  • Minimises the impact of a disruption to your RTOs bottom line
  • Supports your RTOs ability to maintain compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Mitigates business risks particularly for uninsurable events and provides a mechanism in which to comply with insurance policies
  • Builds business resilience and sustainability

Developing your BCP

Use these six steps to develop your RTOs plan:

  1. Identify the scope of the BCP e.g. all RTO operations and locations.
  2. Identify key business areas e.g. HR, ICT etc.
  3. Identify critical functions e.g. payroll, customer service/enrolments, learning and teaching
  4. Identify dependencies between various business areas and functions. e.g. key personnel register, external suppliers
  5. Determine acceptable downtime for each critical process e.g. maximum acceptable outages
  6. Create a plan to maintain operations e.g. key documents and records, ICT systems register, work from home arrangements

Implementing your BCP

Your RTO business continuity plan will form part of your overall business plan. Your BCP should contain all of the information you need to get your RTO up and running again after a crisis or disruptive event. The size and complexity of your BCP will depend on the size of your RTO.  RTO senior management must drive the development and implementation of the BCP; this cannot be delegated to other staff. Management is also critical in ensuring the BCP is communicated to all staff so they are aware of how to respond appropriately in the event of a crisis or disruptive event.

References

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/protecting-business/risk-management/continuity-planning