* Teleworkers are expected to maintain the same level of competence, productivity and quality of work as before the crisis
* Number of teleworking hours should not exceed the average that was previously applied at the workplace
* Teleworking conditions of employment should remain the same as before
* Workers can agree to work for a maximum of two hours of overtime per day if mutually agreed upon with the employer
* To the extent possible, the employer provides the necessary equipment and supplies
* Officials and supervisers should develop strategies to address safety and health of teleworkers
* While teleworking, workers should not perform other personal activities during work hours
Working from home should not affect an employee's work-life balance, salaries or other benefits, according to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA).
At the same time, those working from home are expected to maintain the same level of competence, productivity and quality of work as before the Covid-19 crisis, it states.
The ministry has addressed these and several other key issues in its guidance for temporary telework (work from home or remote work) arrangements in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
"The Council of Ministers decided on the 18th of March, 2020, to reduce the total number of private and public sector employees present at the workplace to 20%, while requesting the other 80% to telework," the MADLSA said, noting that there are some exceptions for enterprises providing vital services.
Teleworking is an important component of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ministry stressed. Following is a practical guide to teleworking for both employees and the management:
1. Guidance for managers and supervisers – the management
* Terms and provisions of employment contract – The teleworking conditions of employment should remain the same as before. An employee's wage and benefits, including the provision of food and accommodation or the payment of allowances, should not change as a result of teleworking.
* Working hours – Employers and teleworkers need to discuss and agree on teleworking hours and times during which they can be contacted. The number of teleworking hours should not exceed the average that was previously applied at the workplace. For most sectors, the working hours have been reduced, extending from 7am to 1pm (six hours per day) during the crisis.
* Overtime – In sectors where working hours have been reduced to six hours per day, workers can agree to work for a maximum of two hours of overtime per day if mutually agreed upon with the employer.
In sectors that are operating on normal working hours and were excluded from the decision on reduced working hours, workers should continue to work eight hours per day, and a maximum of two hours of overtime per day if mutually agreed upon with the employer, in accordance with the Labour Law.
* Management support – The effective management of teleworking requires a result-based management approach. This involves identifying work objectives and tasks, and then monitoring and discussing progress. It is necessary to factor some adjustments in the work plan and work targets, in accordance with the challenges and changes brought about by the crisis.
* Equipment and supplies – To the extent possible, the employer provides the necessary equipment and supplies that are needed to ensure the employees' performance of their job duties. This includes electronic equipment. "In this framework, we encourage managers to share online tutorials on how to use and access the company Intranet, to access emails remotely, and to instal security protocols and handle sensitive files remotely," the MADLSA states.
* Safety and health – The employee's home workspace, when used for teleworking, is an extension of the workspace. Isolation at home can have a significant impact on the mental health of workers. Officials and supervisers should develop strategies to address safety and health of teleworkers. These can, for example, include organising virtual weekly team meetings and daily check-in calls.
2. Guidance for teleworkers
* Working hours and rest – Teleworkers should be contactable during the working hours agreed upon with the superviser. Teleworkers are expected to maintain the same level of competence, productivity and quality of work as before the crisis.
While teleworking, workers should not perform other personal activities during work hours. If at any time an employee is not performing official duties, the employee must take leave as is appropriate.
* Leave – Teleworking should not be used in place of annual, sick or any other type of leave. Requests to use leave must be submitted, discussed and approved by the superviser following the usual policy.
* Equipment – The teleworker should request for guidance from his/her superviser regarding the possibility to receive equipment, supplies and training that are needed to perform job duties from home. The employee shall return all enterprise-owned equipment, software and data files at the end of the teleworking period, while it is necessary to maintain the confidentiality and security of the information.
* Work-life balance – Teleworkers should maintain a boundary between work and personal life by identifying a dedicated workspace and learning to disconnect from work at specified times reserved for rest and personal life.
"Teleworking provides a safe environment that contributes to business continuity and sustainability. Your co-operation plays an important role in making this arrangement a success," the ministry adds.