The coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of the working world. With people being instructed to stay at home where possible, many jobs have moved from the office to the home.
For some, remote working has been successful, and you may even consider making it a more permanent option when the pandemic ends. For others, they may be eager to return to the normality of office working.
There are many advantages of working from home, so it can be worth looking at making it work if it isn’t working for you currently. But there are some key things you need to remember, and it isn’t an arrangement that suits all roles.
Let’s explore this below.
What is remote working?
Working remotely is where staff may conduct their usual duties outside of the workplace, such as from their homes. It is a form of flexible working, which employees can statutorily request once per year if they have worked for the company at least 26 weeks.
We call it remote working rather than working from home as, in reality, the staff can complete the work anywhere. With an increasing number of apartments offering co-working spaces and the prevalence of coffee shops, this is where a lot of remote workers prefer to work.
Whilst the option to work at home is not new, and indeed many companies have been practicing this for years, it has become a very regular aspect of company operations because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Benefits of home working
Home working can be very popular with staff, providing them to the opportunity to enjoy its many benefits and work-related perks.
The lack of commuting can help them to save money whilst also providing more time for them to do out of work activities, which on the whole can improve their work/life balance.
It can also be really helpful for working parents who have child-caring commitments that are difficult to maintain when working from an office.
From your businesses’ point of view, you can aim to cut costs by not having to maintain an office space, or renting a smaller place that does not require staff to be in every minute of their working week.
Working from home is viewed as a workplace perk or benefit and it will help you attract more skilled labour. With more jobs being able to be managed from home, it is an increasingly easy perk to offer.
Balancing work and benefits can therefore make home working highly attractive, especially as businesses start to increasingly look to a post-pandemic world.
Here are some more benefits:
- Flexibility: staff will be more willing to accept irregular hours when working from home. Useful if you have to liaise with other countries.
- Retention: you can improve retention of staff members through better job perks and making it easier for new mothers to return to work.
- Increased productivity: having a quiet home based office can be a more productive environment for some employees instead of a busy office.
- Better motivation: with an increased level of trust shown to them by their employers, staff will be more engaged and motivated to work for them.
- Improved wellbeing: working from home eliminates the need for a commute to work that can be stressful to your employees. Time savings such as this also enables staff to get extra health benefits such as additional sleep, spending more time with family, exercising or preparing healthier meals.
How to work from home
As of early 2021, businesses across the UK will see staff work from home temporarily, in order to keep them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You will need to ensure the employees have the equipment or infrastructure to work from home. While this doesn’t mean they must have a home office, they will need a suitable wi-fi connection to carry out their duties.
You can assist employees with working from home by providing them with work laptops, monitors, keyboards and mice. This will allow them to be as productive at home as the traditional office.
You must remember that there is a key difference between working from home and working at home.
Working at home in the UK
Working at home relates to a temporary arrangement – staff are given what they need to, for the time being, conduct their usual duties from home.
This means that the steps that would usually be taken, such as a full health and safety check on their working environment, may not be as significantly followed during this time. You do this through a working from home risk assessment, the employee will fill this out.
You should bear in mind the latest guidance around home working due to covid restrictions
Working from home in the UK
Working from home is the permanent situation where it is to be expected that staff will be conducting this for months, and years, onwards. Therefore, there are going to have to be several things to bear in mind.
As said above, a full risk assessment will need to be conducted to make sure that their working environment is safe and secure, baring in mind that an employer’s duty of care to their staff does not change, or diminish, because they are working in a different place.
It is also very important to establish a homeworker agreement, which will outline information such as how long the home working is expected to last, the standards of behaviour still expected from home workers and that they are still expected to adhere to all usual company rules and policies.
You may be concerned that managing staff working from home can be difficult if you cannot observe them directly. It is vital that you keep in regular contact with all remote staff, holding regular meetings with them and encouraging continued collaboration. It is also a good idea to set targets to your home workers; if they do not meet these, they should be invited to outline why this is. If you are not satisfied with their explanation, it could be a clear sign they cannot be trusted to work from home.
Work from home policy
To ensure remote work is as effective as work in the office environment, you can establish a policy. For example, some employees may assume as they are working remotely, they now have flexible working hours. This may not be suitable for their role, so having a policy ensures understanding.
Having a homeworking policy helps everyone to know:
- How people will be set up to work from home, including how the employer will carry out risk assessments.
- Who will provide and pay for equipment.
- How homeworkers will be managed.
- How things like expenses, tax and information security are handled.
- The employer's approach to homeworking in non-emergency situations.
Setting up an effective working from home policy can be difficult for small businesses. That’s where we come in. At peninsula, our team of expert HR and employment law specialists can draft up policy for you, as well as provide any advice you need. Call today on 0800 028 2420