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August 28, 2020
Working From Home on a Permanent Basis – Would it Work For Your Company?
What are the options for employers when responding to work from home requests on a more permanent basis?
With the recent lockdown restrictions slowly being lifted and the government’s encouragement for those working from home to now start safely returning to work, many employers are having to rethink their stance on homeworking due to requests from their employees.
26% of people plan to continue working from home when lockdown eases, according to a recent Independent headline.
We should remember that working from home on a more permanent basis is different to the temporary set-up in place during lockdown. Prior to lockdown, employers may have discouraged working from home; expressing concern of a lower output and a decrease in productivity.
What Do Business Leaders Think?
When asked how remote working had been for him, Jason Stewart, CEO of a leading Healthcare Recruitment business and a client of Moorepay said, “In a sales environment we definitely lost some productivity that we have regained since we got back to the office”. He added, “Although I can see it [working from home] working for many industries, we need to motivate our team, and that is very difficult if everyone is remotely working and only in contact via Zoom etc.”. Jason continued, “Salespeople thrive when surrounded by other salespeople. They work harder, and they are more driven when in a group”.
With the appropriate levels of communication, remote meetings and most importantly the great team we have, I have been pleasantly surprised with how everyone has adapted. – Mike Davis
Another Moorepay client, Mike Davis, a senior manager for a building services business was asked the same question. In response, he said, “When lockdown was imposed and we were all told to work from home, I was quite nervous with how it would impact the business with regards to efficiency. However with the appropriate levels of communication, remote meetings and most importantly the great team we have, I have been pleasantly surprised with how everyone has adapted. Whilst we will look forward to opening the office up again, it will certainly change how we do things in the future.”
Two very different opinions from senior leaders of businesses in diverse industries – it would seem that the widespread home working a more permanent basis may not suit all businesses. So what do you do when asked by an employee if they can change their working location?
What Should You Consider When Responding to Home Working Requests
1. Statutory Protection
There is no automatic right for employees to work from home, but certain employees do have the benefit of statutory protection, which should be considered. For example, those with specific parental or carer responsibilities can apply for flexible working arrangements, following the requirements of the businesses policy, which could include working from home.
ACAS states that an employee has the right to request a flexible working pattern (such as working from home), and as the employer you must look at their request fairly, following the ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working requests; and make a decision within a maximum of 3 months.
2. Health and Safety
Then there is the Health and Safety aspect when considering an employee’s request. A home office needs to be set-up correctly in order to avoid any workplace injury claims such as sore necks and bad backs as a result of an incorrect workstation set-up and the lack of adequate equipment for instance chairs etc. There’s a balance to be struck between ensuring safe working and becoming responsible for furnishings and ‘infrastructure’ in your employee’s home.
The speed with which many ‘pandemic’ home working started means that there are people working in all kinds of less-than-ideal domestic areas on unsuitable chairs – sofas, coffee tables, kitchen breakfast bars, child-size desks in bedrooms.
You also need to consider potential security threats. The business would need to study how it manages use of unsecured networks, which could lead to data breaches. This is especially true where you have allowed the use of personal devices in the haste to keep the business running when lockdown hit.
Smartphones holding sensitive company information can easily be lost, as can physical files and paperwork. What protocols have you put in place for the production of home printing and the disposal of paper documents?
4. Communication and Engagement
In addition, communication may become a concern due to the lack of interaction in person among employees. A simple misunderstanding between colleagues that would usually be settled with a quick chat at someone’s desk could make the matter worse, or indeed the matter may take longer to resolve if only dealt with via email or calls.
Some employees can easily feel distanced from the business’s leadership and objectives and become disengaged. A business should have concise and robust policies in place in order to manage such instances.
A further area to look at is the employee’s insurance, does it allow them to work from their home address? Would they be receiving visitors and would they be insured? Would the equipment belonging to the business be covered for loss or damage?
6. Employee Wellbeing
On the plus side there are many advantages for a business to allow their employees to work from home on a more permanent basis, at least some of the time. Research finds that many employees feel happier working from home; they no longer have to commute, many feel they work better alone without daily distractions and their output is higher because of this. The employee may discover that they are financially better off by eliminating the cost of commuting, lunches etc. There are small tax breaks too. Allowing them to work from home potentially could create a better work/life balance which benefits all parties.
You may find that your business has better attrition, driving better motivation and engagement with less time lost due to sickness and casual domestic absences. An employee who does not have to take leave to be at home for a delivery or repair can manage their holiday for proper rest and relaxation. They may also work better knowing the business is trusting them to fulfil their role remotely.
Get Support for Decisions on Home Working
There is much to deliberate when an employee requests to work from home on a more permanent basis. Norms in your industry, the culture of your business and the people concerned must all be considered carefully.
Moorepay can take you through your plans – with the help of one of our consultants and with access to a document pack of everything you need, you can work through the issues and make the right decisions for your business.
With 15 years’ Human Resources experience, Judy has a wealth of knowledge across a diverse range of industries. During her career, she has used her strong negotiation skills to bring many difficult and unpredictable situations to a speedy and positive conclusion. HR consultancy often means ‘thinking on your feet’ for a prompt and best-possible solution.
As well as specialising in employee relations for SMEs, Judy’s experience includes Working Time Regulations, apprenticeships, National Minimum Wage, Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees (TUPE), relocations, Learning & Development, Strategic Planning, and Change Management.