Since the pandemic hit the UK earlier this year many employees have worked from home and it seems some employers have found issues with home working. Here is a guide to home working and how we can make these issues easier. It now seems it will be a long time before everything returns to normal. Therefore, employees may be required to work from home more often. Even if your employees have worked from home before, they might not have spent such a long time away from their colleagues. In one sense, we’re all in it together, but in another sense, it’s a different experience for everyone. Having additional responsibilities, such as childcare, or losing out on chances to socialise might be starting to affect your employees.
What are the Advantages?
Besides preventing employees from catching the coronavirus and passing it on to others by social distancing, home working creates a more flexible schedule, the ability to work from any location, and no more commuting were the top reported benefits The cost savings associated with remote work may win over many companies. As well, switching to virtual meets in some instances can also be a significant cost savings. Employers and employees should be practical, flexible and sensitive to each other’s situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
What are the Possible Disadvantages?
Of course, not everything is positive about working from home. The top issue faced by remote workers was switching off from work. Without the clear-cut change of location and defined office hours, many people have a tougher time clearly dividing their personal and professional time.
However, the lack of person-to-person communication can be a challenge for some people. In fact, one-third of employees interviewed were concerned that the full extent of their professional efforts wouldn’t be appreciated because of a lack of in-office contact. You may be worried that productivity and focus will be diminished, as will team cohesiveness and company culture.
What Should Employers Do?
As employers you will be responsible for the equipment and technology you give employees so they can work from home. You should discuss equipment and technology with the employee, agree what’s needed, and support the employee to set up any new equipment or technology. If an employee also has some work tasks that can be done safely away from their home, they should make sure they have access to the right equipment for those duties, such as a work laptop rather than having to use their own, from a security perspective this is also advisable. Having sensitive company information on an employee’s personal home computer is not advisable.
You will need to communicate with staff exactly what’s expected of them. This includes agreeing, when employees will be available to work, how they will keep in touch, how work-life balance will be managed. For example, ensuring they take regular breaks and switching off from work at the end of the day. Rules around storing information and data protection will need to be conveyed, as well as how performance will be managed and measured. Discuss who employees should contact if they have any problems or their circumstances change.
It’s important to recognise that some employees may find it hard to motivate and organise themselves when working from home. If this happens, you should talk to the employee about practical steps that might help. We recommend you keep in touch regularly with your employees and encourage online meetings with team members and mangers.
Employers and employees may be able to agree a more flexible homeworking arrangement. This could include working different hours, agreeing that the employee may not be able to work a full day or a full week, reducing work targets, being flexible about deadlines where possible. The same approach may be needed if an employee is caring for someone else, for example an older relative or someone who’s ill.
It’s important that you keep checking in with your staff while you’re apart. Just because they were okay a few weeks ago, their circumstances may have changed, and they could require different support. You may need to offer Parental Leave or emergency leave for an employee to take time to arrange child care should schools or nurseries send children home because of an outbreak.
It could be that you and your employees are experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety at the moment. Remind your staff to take regular breaks, for example to avoid sitting at a computer for too long. They should also try to do other things to stay mentally and physically active outside of their working hours.
Health and Safety Risk Assessments
By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home. During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s very unlikely that employers can carry out usual health and safety risk assessments at an employee’s home. However, an employer should still check that each employee feels the work they’re being asked to do at home can be done safely and employees have the right equipment to work safely.
Employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety. Anyone working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager. They should also tell their manager about any health and safety risks, and any homeworking arrangements that need to change.
Employees who are working from home must get the same pay, if they are working their usual hours. Their usual terms and conditions still apply, apart from having to work from home on a temporary basis. You will need to make sure staff working from home follow the law on working hours. Employees who are looking after children may require a sensitive conversation and it is recommended you try to be flexible towards the employee’s situation.
An employee’s circumstances may change so they’re no longer able to work from home. You may need to check your business insurance to make sure you’re covered for an employee working from home if they’re using business equipment. It also needs to cover them against a claim by a third party. Employees should check there are no issues with them working from home, with their home insurer, mortgage provider or landlord.
If you would like more information on any issues with home working culture call 01706 565332 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 to discuss how we may help you.