Out of sight: how to manage long-term homeworkers

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

November 11 2020

With people across the UK now living under various levels of lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions, it’s likely that some of your staff are working from home.

And while for many, home working may have first started as a short-term measure, you may find that you now manage a team of permanent home workers. And that brings new challenges as an employer.

Here are our top five tips on how to manage your people and get the best from a remote workforce. 

1. Stay in touch with remote workers

Like most employers, you’ve probably stayed in regular contact with your staff while they’ve worked from home.

But as you fall into a routine, it’s easy to forget about the importance of daily communication. And not just on a professional level.

Because, for some people, long-term remote working can lead to serious wellbeing issues. In fact, according to a recent study in the US, 69% of home workers have suffered symptoms of burnout.

And it’s easy to see why. Remote working puts people at greater risk of social isolation. This, in turn, can lead to loneliness and mental health issues. Added to that the stress of working in the middle of a global pandemic and it’s no wonder that many home workers are struggling.

So, what can you do to support your employees long term?

2. Make time for meaningful communication

That means using your regular calls to chat about your people’s wellbeing and spot where they’re struggling.

In some cases, there may be ways to make life easier for your staff. That includes helping them to manage their workload, providing regular feedback and setting realistic targets.

But it’s also important to know where your influence as a boss ends and where employees need professional support.

So, if you benefit from an Employee Assistance Programme, now’s the time to let your people know that confidential well-being support is available for them 24/7.

3. Set long-term goals

In previous articles, we’ve touched on how to set targets and expectations for remote workers.

But as staff move to working from home long term, you may need to think about their objectives and goals long term, too.

It’s likely that, before the coronavirus crisis, you held formal performance reviews with your employees. The outcomes of these reviews set the direction for your staff and often tie into their rewards and salaries.

And while you may not be in a position to offer pay rises at the moment, it’s still important to consider your people’s career goals and ambitions.

Remember, the best way to keep your staff motivated is to give them work that motivates them. Use formal reviews to make sure that, where possible, your remote workers are working on the tasks they love.

4. Monitor staff performance

There are many ways to monitor employee performance remotely.

These range from asking your staff to send you a list of tasks completed every day through to tracking their keystrokes on a keyboard. You can read more about the rules on employee monitoring here.

Ultimately though, the best way to monitor performance long term is to measure someone’s output against their objectives.

And while different roles have very different responsibilities, most employee monitoring aims to answer one question: are my staff delivering their work to the right standard of quality in the agreed time?

Because even though your people are working at home, your business rules still apply. So, where staff underperform, you have the right to start disciplinary procedures.

5. Update work from home policies

If you haven’t already, now’s the time to update your work-from-home policies. You may also need to amend staff contracts to change their places of work.

Your policies should cover many of the points mentioned above, such as how you plan to monitor staff’s internet use and manage their performance. This includes your disciplinary processes.

You should also specify which roles are not viable for working from home and how you plan to handle work from home requests. Remember, after 26 weeks of service, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working.

It’s important to get your work-from-home policies right. Setting clear rules for staff will help you to avoid disputes later on. And if the worst happens, watertight policies can even help to protect you during a tribunal claim.

Enjoy expert advice

Remote working can be a big challenge for businesses and employees.

So, whether you plan to let staff work from home forever or look forward to bringing people back into the workplace, we’re here to help.

For further complimentary advice on flexible working policies from an expert, call us any time day or night on 0800 917 0771 or request a callback here.

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