Preparing for Home-Based Working
Before Covid-19, the concept of Home Working tended to be more of an ‘exception’ rather than a ‘rule’. Certainly, when I was based in an office, I was able to ‘work from home’ occasionally but it never became the ‘norm’. Maybe that was because we just got used to going into the office, maybe we enjoyed being part of the office environment, maybe we had to be in the office. Whatever the reason, working from home or home working was generally the exception.
Covid-19 seems to have changed all of that. In March 2020 when ‘lockdown’ began, I received a number of calls from clients asking about the concept of ‘homeworking’ – could the job really be done as well from home? Can I trust them to do the hours I am paying them for?
I guess the answer had to be – well you probably won’t know unless you try it and see what happens.
That was uncomfortable for some because they just found it very hard to grasp the concept and that was only because it had never been done before or tried. There was a perception amongst some, that because they couldn’t physical see the person at work, they would lose control of the work being done so could not see whether their employees were being productive enough.
For anybody who has or does work in an office, you will know that there is a great deal of time taken in meetings, talking to colleagues, being interrupted by questions from somebody sitting close by. You could argue that the actual ‘productive’ time in an office amongst colleagues is not always that ‘productive’. You may therefore argue that working from home means significantly more productivity because the individual may be more focused on any given task. However you feel, there are most definitely pros and cons on both sides, so finding a middle ground where employees can see their colleagues occasionally but still have the flexibility to be based from home and work productively is likely to be a change many of us will embrace and benefit from.
So fast forward a few months and what do we find?
Well, for the Companies that I am familiar with, for most it has been a huge success … almost to the point where they are now seriously considering how their employees work in the future and making long term and significant changes as a result. Companies have saved a fortune on utility bills, employees have saved on commuting and travel to work costs and generally productivity has seen an increase rather than decrease …. so it worked … for most of those, I have spoken to.
Maybe something positive can come out of Covid-19 for the future of the workplace, at least.
Having said all of this, it is wise to think about what this means to your business and to consider the elements of change that could be impacted. So here are a few items to think about if you are one of the many companies, considering longer term changes to working arrangements for your employees.
- Is there flexibility in the employment contract already? If not, how could you introduce this?
- How do you deal with times when the homeworker needs to come into work or travel on company business? Does your expenses policy need reviewing?
- How will you notify your homeworker if you need them in the office?
- What happens if your homeworker wants to work in a public space occasionally e.g. hotel reception?
- How do you deal with Data Protection and the security of confidential information?
- How do you deal with day-to-day events like GP appointments? Do you have or could you introduce HR software to help you manage this?
- How do you expect them to do their work during the day? How do you track time to make sure they are not doing too much or too little? Does it matter if the job gets done?
- Would it be more flexible or more productive for either party? Does it save or cost money?
- How will you ensure they have ‘down time’, ‘colleague time’ or time to engage with their teams/managers etc?
- Where will they physically work in the home – is it practical?
- What Health and Safety obligations will you and your homeworker have? E.g. DSE Assessments
- Does your Homeworker have caring responsibilities e.g. children at home. How will you ensure they have adequate care provision and what happens if that provision fails?
- Would a Trial Period be an option and if so, how do you determine its success (or not)?
- What equipment will they need, e.g. desk, computer and who owns it, who insures it and what happens if it goes wrong?
- You may consider supplying the equipment to ensure it is compliant with what you need. Make sure the equipment is only used for office use and remains as your property if you do. If they use their own, make sure there are clear boundaries about use, insurance, data protection etc
- Be careful to ensure the homeworker does not suffer a detriment e.g. cannot access subsidised café/restaurant – will you be able to keep the benefits they had before or not?
- You do not have to pay broadband costs, but you may wish to agree what can and can’t be claimed against expenses but be careful that HMRC rules do not trip you up.
- Can the employee actually use their home to work from? If they rent their property, they may need permission from a Landlord.
- How do you deal with sickness and holidays for home workers?
- How will monitoring be done so that work/personal boundaries are reasonable? If your Homeworker is using their own computer, you will not be able to access personal computers.
- Do you need access to the employees’ home e.g. to conduct a risk assessment and if so, how would you do this in practice?
And finally …
- How do you end it, especially if it is a contractual arrangement? Be clear about how it will change if it has to at the outset.
All of the above are things that could be included in a Homeworking Policy. If you would like guidance on this topic, how to interpret your contracts of employment or would like help to introduce Home Working:
ASK THE Y-GUYS AT OLYVETREE HR FOR HELPC
ALL 07525 923329 or email