Published August 2021
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, lockdowns have become a more common occurrence than anticipated and many businesses have been forced to rethink their working arrangements. With a large proportion of employees unable to commute to their usual workplace during a lockdown, and many employees enjoying the opportunity to work from home, Employers have been braced with the challenge of implementing remote working plans. Whilst for some Businesses, having their employees work from home has been a great success, other businesses are still finding their feet in making remote work effective for their business.
There can be many challenges with adjusting to having employees work from home, especially if leaders and employees are used to working in a busy office environment surrounded by others. However, with the right support, guidance and structure, businesses can easily ensure new working from home arrangements are effective for both the employee and the business.
This quick update will guide you though some key considerations in coming to an arrangement that will work best for your business.
BENEFITS OF WORKING FROM HOME (REMOTE WORK)
With the right resources, working from home can have many benefits for employees and employers. Aside from when remote work is forced during a lockdown, working from home arrangements might be on a full-time basis or just a couple of days per week. It may also be just as needed, for example, around personal commitments.
Either way, working from home can bring some valuable benefits, such as:
Healthier work-life balance: by allowing employees to work from home you allow them to work around their personal commitments more easily. This might look like employees being able to spend more time with their children, pick them up from school, take a walk during their lunch break or having the option to have their lunch break with their partner.
No work commute: Employees no longer stress about the daily peak hour commute and instead can use that extra time to complete home errands, fit in exercise or anything else they might otherwise struggle to find time for. By not having a work commute or the stress of running late, employees are likely to be more relaxed and more focused on their work.
Increase in productivity: Working from home usually means fewer distractions. For employees that work in a busy office environment, they may find that working from home allows them to have more time to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted or interrupted as frequently as they would in the office.
Job Satisfaction: Working from home is becoming a valuable benefit for many employees. You might also find that prospective employees are looking for the opportunity to work remotely (in some capacity) in their new role. Businesses that allow work from arrangements for employees on a recurring basis, generally find that staff retention rates increase. Employees will likely be more satisfied in their roles and more engaged in their work which means the thought of them leaving is unlikely!
Click here to access Edwards HR FREE Working From Home Toolkit which includes all the documents you need to get your team set up!
Whilst there are some great benefits, working from home does also bring some challenges. Employers must be aware of the challenges applicable to their circumstances, and work out the best solution/s to work around these in order for a working from home arrangement to be successful.
Common challenges that Businesses face include:
Employees not having the right tools and resources: Not every employee is going to have the right tools and resources at their home which is why employers must be mindful of what employees have and what they will need. Equipment that should be considered in most circumstances will include a laptop or computer, monitor, stable and reliable internet access, and a phone. For some businesses this can be as easy as providing these resources to the employee, however if this is not an option for you then make the time to sit down with the employee to discuss alternatives.
Communication Barriers: When working remotely, it is easy to get into a routine of communicating with your team via email, instant messages or text. To keep up your normal communication and break down any barriers, ensure that you are checking in with your team regularly using other tools like video calls and phone calls as well. Try dedicating a daily or weekly time to have a team video call to get your team together to discuss any topics or projects, or try to replicate what you would do in the regular workplace, but virtually. This will allow your employees to have access to their leader, and feel connected with the team without feeling isolated or distant.
Family commitments: When lockdowns were first announced, a common challenge for many employees was juggling working from home and caring for their children. This is still a struggle for many today. It is important that employers are aware of the employee’s home situation and whether they have family commitments that they may need to attend to. If this is the case, then flexibility in hours is a great solution in helping the employee be able to complete their tasks throughout the day where they know they can be their most productive, rather than expecting them to work their standard work hours.
Lack of personal interaction: Humans are social beings that naturally enjoy interaction with others, and it’s easy to take for granted the satisfaction that comes from being around people in a workplace. When this element is removed while employees are working remotely, people can feel lost, isolated, and distant. You can help your team to overcome these by adopting our suggestions.
HOW TO MAKE WORKING FROM HOME WORK FOR YOU
The way employers manage their teams when they are in the workplace compared to when they work remotely will be significantly different. Below are some key considerations that employers should take in to account when determining what will be best for their business:
Motivation: You might find that motivation may be lost at times by employees who regularly work from home or who miss being in their regular workplace. Be sure to keep motivating, recognising and rewarding employees as you would if they were in their usual workplace. Don’t forget to celebrate successes and achievements too!
Progress & Productivity: Working from home can bring distractions to some employees, which is why employers must find their own way of monitoring day-to-day progress and productivity. We always recommend setting clear expectations and deadlines for each employee, but this might include also include creating weekly or daily checklists, checking in with employees throughout the day to see how they are going with certain tasks, requesting updates periodically, or using some of the online tools we have suggested below, some of which allow you to see work progress in real time.
Business system access: It is important to ensure that when employees work remotely, they can access their regular systems and programs that enable them to complete their work. This might include emails, servers, any systems or programs, and remote access to the Businesses network or intranet.
- Online Tools/ Platforms: Fortunately, there are a variety of online tools and platforms available that make working remotely easier and help to keep you connected with your team. Below are some of our recommendations:
- Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack: Enables you to set up video conferences and instant messaging to help you and the team keep in contact throughout the day.
- Google Drive and Dropbox: These programs are cloud storage systems, that allow you and employees to easily share and collaborate documents with the rest of the team, and even customers.
- Trello and Asana: Great for assigning and keeping track of tasks, projects and deadlines with your team.
- Encouraging Routine: Many people work best remotely if they follow a similar routine to what they would follow if they were working from their usual workplace. You could consider encouraging your team to:
Dress for work – for example, wear their company uniform, professional attire, or whatever would be worn in the usual workplace;
Have a designated work area – ideally away from distractions such as the TV and other family members;
Structure your day like you would in your usual workplace;
Start and finish at around the same times each day, where possible;
Take their regular breaks for meals, fresh air and moving away from your desk.
- Employee Feedback: Remote work can be a big change for leaders and employees, so it’s important that you are clear with your team about how the working from home arrangement will work and your expectations. Once you’re in the swing of things, it’s then important to regularly check in with your team. Asking questions like these will help you get some good feedback about how things are working:
- Do you have everything you need to be able to work productively at home?
- Do you feel as productive at home as you are in the office?
- Which communication channels and online tools are working best for you? Are there any that are not working well?
- As your Manager/Supervisor, is there anything I could do differently that would make working from home easier for you?
- Is it easy for you to ‘turn-off’ at the end of the day?
IMPORTANCE OF DOCUMENTING EVERYTHING
When arranging for your team to work from home, it’s important that everything is appropriately documented. Below are documents that every business should consider implementing when allowing employees to work from home. You can download these document templates for FREE on our website here.
Work From Home Policy: A Working From Home Policy is essential. This policy should outline what is expected from employees when such arrangements are made including their responsibilities, performance and communication expectations, workplace health & safety requirements, workspace assessment expectations and some information about insurance, security and taxation considerations.
Working From Home Agreement: This document details the agreed arrangements between the business and a specific employee. Some of the details you would include in this type of document are the employee’s address, working from home commencement date, expected duration (if short-term), the days and hours that have been agreed for the employee to work from home and the expectations that the employee is to abide by.
Home Workspace Checklist: This checklist is a great way to have your employees assess the suitability of their home workspace and to action any improvements that need to be made to ensure if safe and comfortable. We recommend that these checklists be completed quarterly or when an employee’s circumstances change (for example, moving house or introducing new furniture).
All the above documents should be signed by the employer and employee and then placed in the employee’s personnel file.