How do I Manage Employees Working from Home?
Date: 27th September 2018 | Categories: Employment law
As working from home becomes increasingly popular, many clients are asking exactly this question. Jenefer Sands, HR and Employment Law Consultant, looks at what we mean by homeworking, the benefits and how to manage home workers.
What is homeworking?
Homeworking covers a whole range of scenarios from occasional working at home, to regular days based at home. It also includes employees whose permanent base is their home, either working all their hours at home or because they are travelling to different locations. With the capability of mobile technology, working from home may not mean “home” anymore, it could mean working from a café or a shared workspace, making remote working a more accurate description.
What are the benefits of working from home?
- Saving on commuting costs and/or time.
- Enabling home life, such as accepting deliveries, doctors appointment, school assemblies.
- Enabling flexibility to work at times that suit the individual.
- Helps employees to cope with childcare and/or caring responsibilities.
- Helps employees to volunteer or take part in sporting activities.
- Reduce costs of office space by operating hot desking or having employees based from home.
- Help with recruitment, increasing the geographical catchment area and appealing to candidates who want the benefits for themselves.
- Reducing sick days, both due to less illness and employees being able to do some or essential work from home whilst feeling ill.
- Improved employee retention, once employees have a lifestyle that works they are less likely to give that up, even for more money.
How do I manage people who are working from home?
The crucial question; how to ensure productivity isn’t lost as a result of homeworking? It’s increasingly being found by many companies that employee productivity increases.
Largely, the answer is the same as how to manage someone in an office. Just because someone is sitting at their desk for 8 hours in an office in full view of their manager, it does not mean they are being productive or doing good quality work. Despite this, many managers still use this and “working late” as a marker of a good employee. When we pay someone to do a job, we should know what we are expecting them to achieve. Once the expected outcomes are defined we can define how we will measure those. This is your key to managing all employees wherever they work. Know what you expect of them and how you will measure whether they have achieved it. Ensure processes are in place to monitor the expected outcomes.
What resources should I provide?
It is essential that those working remotely have the resources and equipment to do so. I often have clients telling me that when an employee is working from home others in the office are having to deal with phone calls. Unless the person working from home is doing so for the purpose of having focused time, this situation is not ideal. If it is that individuals’ job is to be contactable, then the same applies where ever they work. There are plenty of solutions available to ensure an employee is contactable at home, the caller doesn’t even need to know they’re speaking to someone outside of the office.
For remote working to be successful an individual must be able to do everything remotely in the same way they would be able to in the office. Clearly there are jobs where this will never be possible and there may be roles where certain tasks can be done from home on occasions, but regular homeworking is not possible. When agreeing to or deciding you want employees to work from home, ensure the infrastructure is in place to support it and that everyone knows what work is being done at home.
Maintain Effective Communication
Good communication and maintaining team ethic can be a challenge when employees work from home. Those in the office can feel the environment is quiet and casual conversation can be lost. It is true that building relationships when people don’t see each other is more challenging and there are benefits to being able to lean across the desk and have a conversation. However, poor communication and lack of teamwork is not an inevitable part of homeworking.
Regular communication should be promoted, whether this be scheduled team conference calls, opportunities for face to face meetings, instant messaging or social networking solutions. Managers may need to make the effort to call home workers to catch up. Contact numbers for employees should be shared and the team encouraged to contact each other. Communication and team work, just as in an office environment needs to be driven from the top, with a little planning it can be effective.
In many roles working from home does offer benefits to both employer and employee. Improving communication and methods of measuring performance will provide benefits across the business not only to homeworkers. Do consider your health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers and ensure the correct contract wording is used to reflect the individual’s actual working pattern. If homeworking is requested as a statutory flexible working request take advice on the correct procedure to follow and follow up in writing.
For more information and support with issues surrounding flexible and working from home contact our expert HR and Employment Law Consultants here at Wirehouse.