How do I monitor my home workers?

James Potts - Associate Director of Legal

May 19 2020

On the 10th May 2020, the government announced its ‘roadmap’ for easing lockdown.

But while some workers may be starting to get back to work, much of the UK is still working from home.

And while you can trust most of your team to give their best when working remotely, it’s true that some may be struggling to stay productive.  

So, how do you make sure that your employees are working just as hard at home as they do in work? Read on to find out…

Stay in contact with staff

There are lots of ways to keep check of your staff’s performance when they’re working from home.

The simplest is to have regular catch-ups by phone or video conference and try not to rely too heavily on email. This builds structure and routine into your employees’ days to help keep them motivated.

It also lets you discuss and review your employees’ workload to make sure they’re meeting your targets (more on that shortly).

But no matter how many times you speak to your employees, they won’t have the same level of supervision as when in the workplace. Which means they may be open to distraction…

The rules on internet use monitoring

You’re allowed to monitor employees’ internet use and work emails when using company property. But there are a few things you need to consider first, such as how this impacts workers’ rights.

The Information Commissioner states that, before monitoring internet use, employers must “identify the need for monitoring and set out clear rules to employees on how it will operate”.

That means you need to inform staff that you’re monitoring them and be open about your rules on unacceptable behaviour.

You may also need to do an ‘impact assessment’ on how monitoring will affect your employees and develop a process to handle any personal data you generate in the process.

Monitor the output, not the process

The best way to judge someone’s performance is to look at their output. That means setting clear targets and holding employees accountable for achieving them.

The simplest target is time. During your catch-ups, set time scales for completing specific tasks. Make sure you and your employee agree on the deadline for completing their work. Then hold them to it.   

For some staff, objectives and targets may be more detailed.

Sales staff need to bring in a certain amount of revenue. Admin staff need to meet your standards for precision and quality. Customer service staff need to solve clients’ problems quickly and accurately.

Whatever role your employees play in your business, make sure they know what you want from them and how you measure their success. 

Deal with staff who don’t meet your expectations

It’s worth being patient with your employees. A drop in performance could be due to many reasons, not least the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on mental wellbeing.  

As always, talk to your employees to understand what problems they face. If poor performance is due to stress, anxiety or other mental health issues, then there are ways to support them.

Likewise, simple operational issues, such as a slow laptop, can lead to a drop in performance. In this case, you can either upgrade your employee’s hardware or accept that their productivity may be a little lower until they’re back in work.  

But what do you do if your employee is underperforming on purpose? In other words, if they’re using homeworking as an excuse to avoid work.

It’s simple. Even though your employees are working away from your business, your business rules still apply. If someone underperforms, you have the right to start a disciplinary procedure.

Seek HR advice

Remember, working from home may be a big challenge for your employees.

Trust your people and give them the support they need to be their best. Most will rise to challenge.

And if they don’t, remember: Peninsula clients get access to 24/7 advice to help you manage your HR problems.

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