A home away from home: how do you define the new workplace?

A home away from home? Defining the new workplace

With both the nature and location of work changing for many employers, HR should adopt a number of strategies to maintain a healthy workplace culture across disparate workplaces, writes Joydeep Hor

It’s an interesting question – where the workplace starts and ends. We have all heard of different types of events and activities happen outside of the physical confines of the workplace or outside of work hours that have the potential to impact adversely on an employer’s business

When is a person at work and when is something a private activity? How should we view what happens when a person is away from the workplace, for example working remotely or at a client’s business? Is an employee’s drinking habits or recreational drug use, their Facebook posts, or their interactions with other employees outside of work something that an employer has an interest in?

Defining a “workplace”
The workplace includes but is not limited to the physical space. The parameters of a working day and when an employee is using the business’ equipment and technology to transact business bring ‘the workplace’ into play.

However, the workplace is more than that. What we are looking for is a connection to the work relationship. This can manifest in a number of different ways. For example, it might be through the interactions between employees outside of works hours, whose only connection is through work. It could be working somewhere that is not where the business is located but is a location that the employer has agreed will be where the work is undertaken, including clients’ workplaces or an employee’s home.

“Employers need to ensure that all team members feel connected, engaged, and understand the vision and values of the organisation”

Studies also show that there is an increasing number of employees seeking and obtaining flexible working arrangements. An employer should ensure that prior to the commencement of a working from home arrangement it takes steps to confirm that the employee is working in a safe environment, including hazard identification and risk assessments.

In relation to social media usage it is not about where the behaviour occurs, nor the time at which the behaviour occurs, but quite simply, it is about the impact of the conduct on work and business relations. This requires an assessment of who was involved, what damage was caused, who could view the post and any mitigating factors, such as remorse and length of employment. The starting point for effective management of these issues is an up-to-date social media policy that all staff are trained in.

Global and virtual challenges
The same technology that allows an employee to work remotely can facilitate how a globalised workforce operates from different locations and in different time zones. For global teams to operate effectively, employers need to ensure that all team members feel connected, engaged, and understand the vision and values of the organisation.

Strategies for the new workplace
There are a number of strategies that employers can put in place to maintain a healthy workplace culture across disparate workplaces. Chief among these is the importance of having a clear vision and set of values. This creates a shared connection between employees and can highlight how each an individual contributes to achieving the organisation’s strategic goals and milestones.

“A priority is making an assessment of what systems and structures need to be in place to promote the vision and values of the organisation”

It is important that these values do not fall by the wayside in a virtual or global environment. Employers should consider how these values are best realised across different work environments, time zones, and cultures. A priority is making an assessment of what systems and structures need to be in place to promote the vision and values of the organisation.

In all instances, a key to maintaining a healthy workplace culture across disparate workplaces is communication.

7 key takeaways

  • An increasing number of people are working flexibly.
  • The “workplace” is bigger than your office location.
  • Employers need to consider obligations to protect against inappropriate behaviours and work health and safety risks that arise outside the office.
  • Ensure you have the right strategies and policies for flexible working arrangements.
  • “Private” conduct can impact on an employer’s business.
  • Employers can enforce social media policies and protect their reputation.
  • Utilise technology to build your organisation’s vision and values.