Home working – what you need to know

 

Are you ready for employees to work from home? Beyond planned flexibility, unforeseen events may mean we have no choice.

A significant number of organisations have a work-from-home policy in place for those who wish to formally adjust their work patterns, however are you ready for a situation beyond your control which will require a greater number of staff to be working remotely?

The psychological impact must be taken in account to ensure that organisations not only fulfill their duty of care in relation to the physical environment but also consider emotional responses, during what may be a time of stress and anxiety.

Agility and flexibility may be the new norm.

What do we need to know before we ask people to work from home?

  • People: Be mindful of the impact on an individual’s physical and mental wellbeing. Employees come to the office to learn, socialise and communicate – taking this away can be isolating. Introverts may thrive, while extroverts could lose confidence.
  • Place: Be aware of the employer’s responsibilities when asking staff to work from home. Has the right technology been discussed and personal space established? Guidelines will be important to set people on a new path of delivery.
  • Purpose: Be realistic about the roles and functions that can be fulfilled from home. Distribute a trickle down system for communication and responsibilities with clear direction and expectations – leaders relish a crisis, time to assess those skills along with unseen attributes – your team may well surprise you.

 

What needs to be done to make the third space for your business effective and enjoyable?

People are our greatest asset and managing a crisis situation means that we need to ensure that we are not compounding any anxiety they may already have caused by events.

People are social – the work environment provides them with critical feedback and the group interaction they need. Communication is key, vital in fact to avoid feelings of isolation and disconnection. Setting up a virtual network through regular video calls and creating team based messaging groups will assist with maintaining cohesion and connectivity.

For those unused to working from home, clear and open work from home policies and procedures are critical to provide the appropriate guidance. Trust is important, managers who may not have previously supervised home working need to have confidence that people are delivering what is expected of them and set specific, measurable goals and timelines. Result based evaluation provides far better outcomes than hours worked.

Additionally, there is a risk that people may stay connected for longer; therefore as part of the home working policies, companies must provide clear guidance to their staff as to expectations and highlight possible issues.

Place is important. Under normal circumstances there are usually clear H&S guidelines for employers and policies which need to be in place for staff who are remote or home working prior to work-from-home begins.

Supervising confidentiality and data protection can be a challenge in home working; levels of confidentiality vary from sector to sector and it may be necessary to define what is considered confidential information and, if an individual is using their on computer or phone, be able to monitor communications.

Purpose of the individual is vital. Keep in mind that the duty of care organisations have to their employees is real. However the individual’s work profile must be considered and realistically evaluated. Typically operational roles, design teams, trainees and roles that require specialist, complex technology are not ideal candidates for home working. Companies must take a realistic view as to the impact of home working for those who are typically better served in the office environment.

Not everyone can work from home and there will be a need for HR policies to address these issues and the legal implications. However new opportunities may arise – applying creative thought to tasks that can be achieved at home could open doors to creating and developing collateral that is routinely neglected with busy workloads and commitments.

Time is not a luxury we may have, so employers and employees should both be looking at how they can facilitate home working procedures now, with open and transparent communication.

We all hope that emergency situations, whatever they be, do not arise however taking steps now to ensure that your people and your business are prepared to react quickly is essential. Flexible working can provide tangible benefits to an organisation and an individual – managing a crisis could just redefine our future approach to agile working.

Key recommendations:

  • Offer practical solutions
  • Provide emotional support
  • Supply essential procedural H&S guidelines
  • Construct clear communication plan
  • Maintain community and connection to avoid isolation
  • Prepare for challenges
  • Welcome new opportunities

 

Useful links:

https://archive.acas.org.uk/homeworking

https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working

https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2017/04/Homeworking-Guide.pdf