For many businesses the Coronavirus pandemic has forced a home working scenario and has allowed them the chance to see just how it works. Many have discovered that actually, it’s OK and there is no imminent hurry to get people back into the workplace. In fact, some businesses will now change their way of working entirely, for others, working from home may not be the first choice but they have now seen first hand that it can be done, and may be far more open the idea of a flexible workforce.
When the Prime Minister announced that employees should work from home, many businesses were unprepared. Employees adapted to make-shift work spaces, employers quickly learned the art of Zoom calls and the country found a new working norm, balanced around child care and home schooling for some, and isolation for others. Now the dust has settled, employers can evaluate properly and start to put planning and measures in place to make working from home a safe and viable option.
What Should Employers Consider?
- Health & Safety
An employer has the same health and safety obligations to home workers as they do to those in the workplace. An employer will need to ensure that an employee’s home is suitable for homeworking, free of hazards and has enough space. They should arrange for a health and safety inspection at the employee’s home (with their consent) to assess the work environment, activities and equipment.
The creation of a viable work station which is likely to include the following
- PC or laptop at a proper height
- Decent chair with adjustable height and support for the lower back
- Good lighting
- Internet service with a good speed
Both an employer’s insurance and an employee’s individual home insurance should be checked to see that they cover home working. An employee must inform their insurer otherwise it could invalidate a claim. The mortgage company should also be contacted to check for any restrictions or conditions.
- Data Protection
This is a key consideration and staff working from home should refer closely to the company’s data protection policy. Here is some further guidance https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/working-from-home/how-do-i-work-from-home-securely/
- Working from home policy
It is a good idea to have a formal policy on home working. This agreement between employer and employee clearly defines the expectations and responsibilities for employees who work from home. It may also define who is eligible to work from home, the process for requesting to work from home, as well as the approval process.
Managing People Effectively
Things can feel very different when managing those working from home as our current/recent experiences during the pandemic have shown. There are many areas to think about to ensure that working from home works well for the employee and business alike.
Regular communication is key and should take different forms. Team meetings serve to enhance the team relationship as well as practically enabling the business to measure the team’s performance. Managers should have “one to ones” with employees too which give an opportunity to check in on their mental well-being. Remember to give home workers opportunity to express their opinions, input suggestions and be kept up to date with relevant information on the company.
- Clear, Achievable, Measurable Objectives
Those working from home may take a while to adjust to a new way of working. It is important when managing people that there is an element of trust given to the employee who may feel a need to “prove” what they are doing as they are not visible in the same way as if they were in the workplace. The focus should be on output and employees should clearly understand what is expected of them. Defining targets with clear timescales and explaining quality and standards expected should help an employee stay on track.
It is easier for employers to show flexibility when the measures and output have been clearly defined and understood. Clear and honest conversations around expectations on both sides will really enhance the home working arrangement and increase its success.
- Employee Health and Well-Being
Encourage employees to take regular breaks and move away from their work station, including a lunch break and maybe a short walk. Provide opportunities for non-work related interaction with colleagues as it can be isolating working from home. This could be lunchtime quizzes or Friday virtual drinks. Opportunities for social events should include home workers.