In the United Kingdom, the number of employees working from home is continually increasing. Job roles that involve travel and varying office-type work responsibilities, often see employees using their homes as a workplace.
However, there are different degrees of working from home – whilst some individuals work almost entirely at home, there are others who work only occasionally. The main reasons why businesses allow their employees to work from home include better work-life balance and in some cases, reasonable adjustments to allow employees with a disability to carry on their work, according to the directives under the employment law.
Nevertheless, working from home can have some shortcomings tool. For employers these can include the need to manage staff away from the main work base. For employees, these can include managing the boundaries between personal and work life or overcoming feelings of isolation.
What is “Working from Home”?
As per the employment law, working from home is a work arrangement that allows employees to:
- work entirely at home and only attend regular or occasional meetings at the main workplace or with clients;
- Split time between home or with clients and office (for example, three days at home or with clients and two days in the office);
- work at home occasionally, whilst regularly attending the office.
Overall, working from home allows employees to work flexibly, depending on the contractual/verbal agreement between the employer and employee. This can also be used alongside other work arrangements like working part-time, flexible hours, term-time working and the employer’s core hours. According to studies, employers can achieve better results in job satisfaction, productivity at work and reduction of stress.
Important Considerations for Employers
Before allowing the employees to work from home, employers must first consider whether the job profile is suitable for such an opportunity.
Additionally, cost efficiency or the need for an expansive geographical spread of staff may help decide if employers might consider allowing an employee to work from home. Other important considerations may include:
- team working
- face-to-face supervision
- type of equipment, which can only be installed in the office premises
Whilst allowing the employees to work from home can be an attractive option, such practices are not conducive to all types of businesses. Ideally, if an employee is working from home, they need to be able to:
- spend extended periods of time on their own and work without supervision
- be self-motivated and self-disciplined
- separate professional life from personal
- access adequate equipment and tools according to their job roles
How Can Employers Manage Employees Working from Home
Managing those employees who are working from home can sometimes prove more stressful and challenging than managing office-based staff. If you have to manage a group of employees who are working from home, you need to:
- build trust between yourself and the employees working from home;
- agree on how to supervise and measure work performance;
- communicate effectively;
- train staff who work from home, to help them work equally with their on-site peers.
Additionally, employers must remember that a lack of trust might prove to be the biggest obstacle to ensure maximum productivity from employees working from home. Similarly, it can be challenging for managers and supervisors who prefer face-to-face supervision of the staff.
Therefore, employers must make sure that the employee is aware of his or her responsibilities and how they are expected to share information and ideas with the rest of the team and senior management.
Furthermore, employers must also make sure that performance management for employees working from home is consistent with that of the office-based staff. To do this, the employers can schedule regular face-to-face reviews and team meetings.
Similarly, they should communicate effectively with the employees working from home through telephone or video conferencing, email and periodic face-to-face meetings.
Managing Health and Safety of Employees Working from Home
As per employment law directives, the requirements of the health and safety legislation apply to employees working from home as well.
Therefore, the employer has the responsibility of carrying out a thorough risk assessment to confirm whether the employee’s preferred work location (home in this case) has adequate ventilation, lighting, temperature, space, furniture, floor, computer or any other kind of equipment necessary to carry out the job role.
Similarly, the employer is held responsible for the equipment supplied to the home of the employee, however, it is the employee’s responsibility to correct any flaws in their home, highlighted by the assessment.