Working from home is fast becoming the new, 21st century, preferred business solution. Offering greater flexibility to the employee and the advantage of location specific staff and reduced overheads for the employer, the arrangement can be seen to be mutually beneficial. By permitting employees to carry out their work at home the employer will typically be met with a wider pool of applicants from which to recruit as the ability to work at home will undoubtedly present an opportunity to individuals who are unable to meet the standard 9-5 office roles the majority of jobs require.
Employers must be mindful that the homeworker remains included within the business as a whole. There is a risk that employees who work from home may begin to feel isolated within their employment. The fear is that this isolation may negatively impact on the employee’s performance. The absence of team pressure and camaraderie may result in poor results when employees feel they are independent from their colleagues. To prevent this from occurring employers should aim to schedule regular face to face meetings, establish appropriate targets and objectives required of the employee, and reach an agreement regarding how the homeworker’s performance will be measured.
In terms of measuring the employee’s performance, there is a concern held by employers that by allowing homeworking they will be left unable to monitor whether the individual is actually working. There is a presumption that knowing an employee is in eyesight of their boss will prevent them from ‘slacking off’. However, if the employer is precise in their expectations of the employee whilst carrying out work at home, this is unlikely to be a real issue.
If the employer considers that the homeworker is failing to achieve their goals, or appears not to be working their contractual hours because of distractions in their home, the employer is entitled to commence disciplinary proceedings as would be the case with an office based employee. Should the employer feel it suitable to dismiss the employee provided he has reasonable grounds for the dismissal and has followed the correct procedure, he should not find himself susceptible to a claim. However, an issue which is exclusive to those employees who have worked at home, is the process by which the equipment provided by the business is collected/ returned following a dismissal. This arrangement is best agreed prior to the employee commencing their work at home, so as to avoid ill feelings complicating the process.
The concerns held by an employer regarding the area of homeworking can largely be overcome by the implementation of a homeworking policy within the business. This will clearly identify the employer’s protocol regarding the issued highlighted in this article and wider afield. If made widely available to both current employees and job applicants the option of homeworking can be both advantageous and beneficial to the employer.
The policy, as with any policy relating to an employee’s employment, must be made available to the employee and the employee should be informed and consulted, where necessary, regarding any changes to it.
If you need advice on this particular issue please contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.