September 22, 2020

“Work From Home if You Can”: How The Update Affects Your Business

New measures are to come into force in the UK to reduce the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases. On 22nd September, changes were announced and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has advised people to work from home “if they can”.

Westminster and the Devolved Administrations recently announced additional controls to reduce surge of COVID-19 cases that have been seen throughout September. On 22nd September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a number of changes that affect England and the devolved administrations have announced similar new rules in the relevant countries. One of the changes advises people to work from home “if they can”.

After the government’s advice in July to return to the workplace, many businesses had invested in making work places safe and COVID-secure for their employees. However, according to the government’s new guidance in England, it may be time to work from home again.

This time there is a sight difference to the instruction to home work in March. Many Employers will have COVID-secure workplaces which were not in place previously. Plus, the decision to work from home or not seems more of a guideline, depending on the space available.

If your business is going to be impacted by this change in guidance, keep reading for a reminder on what to do to ensure safe homeworking practices, as well as key considerations for your home-based workforce.

Workstation Assessments

If you haven’t already, you need to complete an assessment of your employees’ work spaces by using a self-assessment form.

This will need to cover Display Screen Equipment (DSE) requirements such as:

  • Adjustable chairs
  • Keyboard
  • Monitor placement
  • Lighting

These simple checks will help ensure the physical safety and comfort of your employees whilst they are working from home.

Data Security

Some employers many need to consider GDPR implications with Employee and Customer Data potentially being exposed to theft, oversight, or a cyber attack.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do your employees use their own computer, broadband or telephone?
  • What virus protection do you/they have?
  • Are confidential communications encrypted?
  • Do staff understand the importance of data protection compliance? Do you?
  • Further, are you satisfied that they will be able to work normally? For example, will other occupants distract them or place confidentiality at risk?
  • Do they have a discrete, ergonomically sound work-space where things can be locked away safely?

Working From Home Expense Claims

Did you know that employees might be able to claim tax relief for some of the bills they have to pay due to working from home on a regular basis?

As of 6 April, employers can pay their employees up to £6 a week to cover the additional costs of having to work from home. For previous tax years the rate was £4 a week.

We share more details in our blog post here on what employees can claim for and for how much.

Mental Health

This pandemic is having a negative impact on both our physical and mental health. Surveys have indicated that many of us are exercising less, consuming more alcohol and having a worse diet. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of with feelings of grief, loneliness, financial worries and strained personal relationships. Existing issues with depression or anxiety may be amplified due to these conditions. The potential for another 6 months of homeworking will, for many, further impact their health and employers need to be very aware of the increased risk to their workers mental health and wellbeing.

To help support your employees, ensure line managers keep this in mind in their interactions with colleagues. Encourage a culture where people can be open about their concerns.

This can start with checking in with staff one-on-one and encouraging conversations in confidence, or establishing a mental health first aider in the company. Another option is to provide an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – it’s an economical and effective way to provide confidential support.

You can read more about focusing on mental health in the workplace here. 

Performance Management

The key performance management tools are still applicable for your home working employees, but they need to be adapted to fit the new working environment. Done well, this will help maximise productivity and allow you to find out about performance.

You’ll need to consider things like effective communication, objective setting, booking one to ones, active listening, and giving feedback. We’ve got a helpful blog post that covers all this: Performance Management for Homeworkers: Top 10 Tips.

What next?

Why not check out our webinar recording on managing the shift to homeworking? Our HR expert, Michelle, talks you through important areas like supporting wellbeing, dealing with flexible working requests, and the infrastructure needed for effective homeworking.

Moorepay customers can contact our 24/7 Advice Line now on 0345 184 4615 (select option 2). Speak to our experts about the new guidance on homeworking.

This article was correct at the time of publishing. Please see our blog for up-to-date articles surrounding this topic.

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About the author

Amy Morrison

About the author

Amy Morrison

Amy is responsible for digital content at Moorepay, which includes creating resources for the Knowledge Centre, and making ongoing improvements to the website. With experience in digital marketing, and content and communications, and with a CIPR Certificate in Public Relations, Amy brings a range of skills to her role as Digital Content Manager at Moorepay.

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